Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 18, 2013

Juvenile drug court: Congratulations to first graduates

— — A new program designed to keep juveniles from going down the deadly road of drug abuse has produced its first graduates. Two high school seniors completed the new McDowell County Juvenile Drug Court program earlier this week.

That’s great news, and a good sign of the success of this new program.

West Virginia’s 16th juvenile drug court was established in McDowell County in May. Designed to help young people avoid drug addiction and its related crimes, the drug court accepts juveniles referred by their parents, school administrators, counselors and the state Department of Health and Human Resources. Judge Lisa Clark, who presides over family court in McDowell and Mercer counties, administers the juvenile drug court program.

Both of the first graduates are seniors in high school. Seven students are still in the drug court program after Tuesday’s graduation ceremony, and they are seeing considerable accomplishments of their own, according to Clark. One participant has been named their school’s student of the month, and another has been recognized by the McDowell County Board of Education for a science fair project. And yet another student is earning straight-A grades, Clark said.

“And we have four of our participants who are now playing varsity sports,” Clark adds. “They’re all required to do 40 hours of community service, so they’ve done that in all sorts of different places in McDowell County. They’ve worked at the animal shelter, the city of Welch, and other towns in McDowell County. They’ve done school improvement projects and one has worked for the Pocahontas railroad doing some maintenance work and clean up. We’ve had others volunteer for fire departments.”

This is great news to hear. It would appear that the county’s new juvenile drug court is off to an excellent start.

When it comes to fighting the crippling chains of drug addiction, it is critical to reach those who are in danger of falling down the path of drug abuse at an early age. The ultimate goal of the drug court is to steer young people away from the dangers of prescription narcotics abuse before they grow up and become adult offenders. And the situation in McDowell County is further aggravated by a rampant drug problem.

That’s why the new McDowell County Juvenile Drug Court is so important. And we are pleased to see that the program is working. We look forward to many additional juvenile drug court graduations in the weeks and months ahead.

Any and all efforts aimed at steering young people away from the deadly dangers of drug addiction should be aggressively pursued by officials across the region.

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