Six counties have been chosen to participate in a pilot project giving drug court judges access to information in the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database. The purpose of the project is to give judges the information needed to help ensure participants in drug court treatment programs are successful.
The pilot project is the result of legislation sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Representative Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), which was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year. The legislation authorized the Commissioner of Health to select three judicial districts to conduct the program for a two-year period. This week, Commissioner John Dreyzehner selected the second, fourth, and 11th districts to participate.
“This program is designed to give judges more tools in their tool box to assist those persons who suffer from addiction and who are in drug court treatment programs,” said Senator Overbey. “Currently, information contained in the database is confidential, blocking judges from important information that could lead to more successful outcomes.”
The counties included in the project are Sullivan, Sevier, Cocke, Jefferson, Grainger and Hamilton. To ensure the privacy and confidentiality of patient records, information obtained from the database by a drug court treatment program must be retained by the program director.
“Addiction is the largest driving factor for crime in Tennessee and effective treatment is key to reducing drug-related offenses,” said Rep. Farmer. “We are very pleased that this program is now underway and believe it has the potential to help many drug court treatment participants. It is important that our judges have all the information available to them to ensure the success of their treatment program.”
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 80 percent of offenders in prison are there in large part because of substance abuse. Approximately 60 to 80 percent of drug abusers commit a new crime, which is typically drug-related, after release from prison. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals statistics show that 75 percent of drug court graduates remain arrest-free at least two years after leaving a court drug treatment program.
The judicial drug court districts selected for Tennessee’s pilot program represent rural, semi-urban and urban areas. If successful, Senator Overbey and Rep. Farmer believe the pilot program could be extended statewide.