Richmond turning to treatment instead of prison

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As opioid addiction explodes in our community, Richmond is turning to treatment instead of incarceration.

After a probation violation, a judge offered Krystal Chanel Davis an alternative instead of more jail time — Richmond Adult Drug Court.

“I needed some type of stability and I can’t do it on my own,” Davis said.

“They’re basically nonviolent offenders,” explained Glorida Jones, Coordinator Richmond Adult Drug Treatment Court Program. “Primarily, they must have a substance abuse disorder to participate in the program.”

Glorida Jones.

Davis was hooked on heroin.

“Where I came from in addiction, I could trust no one,” she said.

“We have a lot of people coming through who have been incarcerated over and over and over and it’s not the answer because they get back out and they use again,” explained Jen Walker, Clinical Supervisor for the Richmond Adult Drug Court.

Jen Walker.

Drug court made the difference for Davis.

“I am clean today and I just came up on my 8 months, so today I am 8 months and 1 day clean and it feels really good,” Davis said.

She’s not the only success story.

“I graduated just last month,” says a proud Rudolph Jackson, who now works at the recovery center helping others. “This program gave me a sense of direction.”

Rudolph Jackson.

“I got everything all back,” added Antonio Wilkins, who graduated from drug court in 2012 and has been clean ever since. “I just brought a beautiful home last year.”

In the face of the growing opioid epidemic, more than 1100 lives lost in Virginia last year to opioid overdoses.

Cities like Richmond see adult drug court as a key weapon in the fight against opioid addiction.

“What’s the use of me doing 12 months in jail with no tools, no type of recovery, come back out and do the same thing all over again? It doesn’t make any sense,” Jackson said.

“Most of the individuals entering the program, it’s some type of opioid, a pill, prescription pills, heroin,” Jones explained.

The drug court program is a sort of a boot camp to recovery.

“They are drug tested sometimes two to three times a week, holidays,” Jones said. “We test for about five or six different opiates, cocaine, marijuana. All individuals are required to work or do community service.”

The clients admit it’s not easy.

“You just have to come in and do the work, take the mask off, ” Wilkins said.

Antonio Wilkins.

“Substance abuse maybe a symptom of many other things in their lives that go on, homeless, trauma, financial issues, family issues that may occur,” Jones said.

“I chose to drink and drug to medicate the pain I was going through inside,” admits Wilkins.

At the drug court, there is a psychiatrist on staff. Clients also get physicals and have to check up on their health.  They must check back in with the court regularly. The counseling goes beyond mental health and addiction.

“They tell you clean up all your credit, they tell you to open a bank account, they structure you from the beginning to the end,” Jackson explained.

“They do everything that is necessary for you to get your life back in order; drug court does it.” — Rudolph Jackson

That structure appears to be helping addicts stay clean and out of jail.

A report to from the Government Accountability Office found recidivism rates from these court programs can last as long as 14 years and crime was reduced by up to 50 percent.

“Drug courts are successful,” says Walker.

With so many new people entering the court system as a result of the opioid epidemic, the Richmond Adult Drug Court would like to expand it services to first-time offenders.

“We currently serve between 65 and 70 participants,” Jones said.

To take on more clients will require more money, but it could be cost saving for the community in the long run. The savings in arrest, prison and trial costs averages nationally anywhere from $3,000 to $13,000 per client.

“They do everything that is necessary for you to get your life back in order, drug court does it,” says Jackson.

The Richmond Drug Court is funded with local, state and federal dollars.

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