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Drug court funding denied

Monday, June 7, 2004

An application for a federal grant of $120,000 to begin a family drug court has been denied.

Earlier this year the Community Assessment Partnership of the Community Caring Council and United Way of Southeast Missouri identified a family drug court as a high priority hoping to end "the cycle of abuse at home and reunite parents and children." The organizations said they believed if families could get joint counseling through a drug court, then drug abuse across generations and family lines would be reduced.

The Department of Justice provides the money for drug interdiction and treatment programs. Officials there have said they had millions of dollars more in proposals than they have in money to fund those programs, said drug court director Steve Narrow. The department will continue to fund existing programs but will not provide money for new ones.

Narrow said he was disappointed by the decision.

"We will do our best to find other funding sources," he said.

In addition to trying to find another source to begin a family drug court, Narrow also faces the need to find a funding source to continue the two that are currently in place. The Byrne grant that provides the money through the Department of Justice provides only startup money for the first four years. The local courts are currently in their third funding year.

Drug court, he said, has been successful in helping mostly first-time offenders get the counseling and support they need to get off and stay off drugs. The same fund that feeds drug court also keeps such programs as the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force going, but with a difference Narrow said he finds baffling.

"There is no ceiling on how many years the drug task force can apply for the grant; it's open-ended," Narrow said. "We continue to hear from the Department of Justice that the drug problem is not just a problem of law enforcement; it's a medical problem and a social problem. But their money certainly is not where their mouth is."

'A paradox of government'

Narrow said he doesn't see drug court as competing with the task force for money.

"We need to be fighting this battle on many fronts," Narrow said. "I've always found that a paradox of government. They say one thing and do another."

The Byrne grant provided the adult drug court over its four-year startup with a total of $480,000; the juvenile drug court has received $128,000. Twenty-five percent is matched by dedicated funds the state legislature provided. Money from other state agencies is not available with the budget cuts the state has endured. However during the previous budget year, Narrow said, when the legislature made the first round of drastic cuts in its budget, drug court was the only entity that got more money than the previous year.

"Our track record shows that it works on a very real level," he said. "Missouri is a leader in drug courts; I'm proud of that. We have over 70 drug courts in Missouri right now."

Since 2001, 93 adults and juveniles have been through the Cape Girardeau County drug court system.

Narrow said he will submit another application to the Justice Department next year for family drug court. At the same time, next July he will have to worry about where he will get funding for the two drug courts already in place.

"We will do something," he said. "We will find enough funding somewhere."

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160


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