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Amid Federal Pressure, Kentucky Drug Courts Look Into Expanding Addiction Treatment

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Eric Molina, Wikimedia Commons
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The state’s drug courts might allow addicts to receive medically assisted drug therapy as part of court mandated treatment.

The move comes after White House drug czar Michael Botticelli said in February that drug courts that prohibit medical treatment would stop receiving federal funding.

Kentucky’s drug courts currently receive almost $12 million in federal grants.

Kentucky Court of Justice spokeswoman Leigh Ann Hiatt confirmed that the state was looking into allowing medically assisted drug treatment but said it was too early for the court system to have an official position.

“Kentucky Drug Court is evaluating the very recent news regarding federal funding and does not have any definitive policy changes to announce at this time,” Hiatt said in an email.

Kentucky’s drug court program is abstinence-based. Participants are required to wean themselves of all drugs, including physician-prescribed drugs intended to ease addicts off of opiates like heroin.

Judges are allowed to assign convicts to “medically supervised detoxification” for six months. However most drug courts require participants to quit treatment drugs like suboxone and methadone while they’re in a diversion or probation program.

One Kentucky circuit judge, David Tapp, who serves Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties, has been running a pilot project that uses the drug vivitrol as part of medically assisted treatment. According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, vivitrol is an opioid-inhibiting drug that can be administered once per month and doesn’t interfere with drug tests.

Tapp is trying to enlist support among drug court judges in Northern Kentucky, The Courier-Journal reported.

The state government provides most of the funds for the state’s drug court programs.  The Administrative Office of the Courts gets federal dollars to partially fund drug court programs in 12 counties. The court system currently receives $7,327,781 in funding from the Substance Abuse Health Services Administration and $4,593,055 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

According to the Kentucky Court of Justice, drug courts in the following counties receive federal funding: Clark/ Madison, Fayette, Floyd, Hardin, Hopkins, Jefferson, Knott/ Magoffin, McCracken, Muhlenberg, Perry, Pike and Warren.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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