Northumberland board supports request for regional drug court

by Madison White Franks 

HEATHSVILLE—The Northumberland board of supervisors on August 10 endorsed a proposed drug court for the Northern Neck.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jane Wrightson said the drug court would cover Northumberland, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Richmond and Essex counties. As proposed, the regional effort would cost individual counties less than if they each have their own.

The program would be 75% funded by the state and 25% of the funds would come from the different localities, said Wrightson. She indicated the individual counties would be expected to pay $6,000 annually to fund the program but she emphasized she would not be requesting the money before July 1, 2018.

Referrals to the 18-month long drug court program would include cases such as larcenies that are a result of drugs, and drug possession or distribution. Participants must be employed or looking for work, they must participate in some sort of community service, participate in drug treatment and they must come to the drug court each week.

The program would be voluntary for the participants as well as the judge, prosecutor, law enforcement and probation officers, she said.

Judge R. Michael McKenney has volunteered to be the judge, added Wrightson.

She indicated the drug court would most likely be held in Westmoreland County.

If the proposal is approved, the grant will last three years with the potential for extending the grant an additional three years.

“Most people won’t want to do this. It has to be people that want to get clean and stay out of jail,” said Wrightson.

There are at least 20 drug court programs in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

District 1 supervisor Joseph Self introduced a motion to approve the proposal and District 4 supervisor Tommy Tomlin seconded it. The vote passed, 5-0, with support from District 2 supervisor Richard Haynie, District 3 supervisor Jim Long and District 5 supervisor Ronnie Jett.