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For years the Coffee County Drug Court has been in the business of aiding recovering alcoholics and drug addicts get their lives on track and avoid the revolving door of the court and jail systems.
But now the organization is trying to take on those problems before they develop.
In November, drug court executive director Mike Lewis and other drug court officials officially launched what they are calling “Recovery Academy” – an outlet for youth who have slipped off the educational tracks and are in danger of not getting a high school diploma.
“If you don’t have at least a high school diploma then the ability to secure employment is diminished,” said Judge Tim Brock, who serves as the drug court judge and often refers youth to the Recovery Academy directly from his courtroom. “That can directly lead to other issues down the road. This is a much cheaper alternative.”
The program allows teens who have fallen off the path to a high school diploma the opportunity to continue the pursuit of that goal through an online diploma and some can get back on path to earning a diploma through their school. Students are held to strict attendance guidelines.
“Basically they are in home school right there in the office,” explained Lewis.
The program is currently at capacity with approximately a handful of teens. But Lewis and Brock hope to secure funding to expand the capacity to 15 or 20 students and move the program from the drug-court building to the building at 601 Madison St. with the Coffee County Literacy Council, which is using the building to help adults pursue their high-school equivalency.
“Our goal is to be able to move Recovery Academy into the upstairs of that building. That way they are doing the HiSET (Tennessee High School equivalency which can be substituted for the GED) program downstairs and we will have some help upstairs for the students. It would be good inspiration to get them on a good career path,” said Lewis.
Lewis said Brock is working closely with state officials to secure more funding for the program.
“We are trying to get some grant money from Department of Children’s Service,” said Lewis. “Judge Brock has actually met with the commissioner of DCS to explain what we are doing. They are really interested in what we are doing. We just haven’t seen any money yet.”
Lewis added that students and parents have been accepting of the program.
“The kids have done well and parents seem to be happy,” said Lewis. “When you get someone to graduate that is a positive. Truancy hasn’t been an issue either because primarily if they don’t show up then Judge Brock knows immediately.”
About drug court
Drug court provides intensive drug and alcohol testing, counseling and treatment with high accountability requirements to help break the cycle of addiction and help recovering drug offenders stay out of jail.
“Sending someone to jail cost $30,000 a year whereas drug court is a mere 25 percent of that,” Brock said in a previous article in the Manchester Times.
“They’re paying taxes and being productive citizens,” said Brock. “It’s hard to put a cost on that.”
Drug court is a state-certified 501c3 non-profit agency and is one of 20 statewide that is funded through grants from the Tennessee office of Criminal Justice programs, Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office, local fees, fines, and tax-deductible contributions.
For more information about the Coffee County Drug Court, visit its website at www.cctndrugcourt.org. Drug court is located at 604 College St. in Manchester.