MADISON – A lack of substance abuse treatment facilities is the biggest problem for both Boone County’s drug and criminal courts, according to Boone County Circuit Judge William Thompson.
“In our efforts to get drug addicts help and recovery, we are facing a real problem of getting them into treatment facilities,” Thompson told the Boone County Commission during its regular session meeting last week.
Last year, a state Senate health committee was told that West Virginia has fewer than 250 beds for long-term, residential treatment, according to the Healing Place.
The state has 7,000 admission spots for short-term treatment, even though an estimated 130,000 people need the treatment, the organization says.
Thompson said in previous years in Boone County, he could get a drug addict a bed in a treatment facility in three to six months.
“Now it takes six to 12 months,” he said. “This is becoming a real problem for the county, the court system and the community.”
Thompson told commissioners he wants to speed up the process by getting the county to commit to renting beds from treatment facilities.
“Cabell County is doing this, so there are always a few beds available at treatment centers with little to no wait time,” he explained. “This is vital in emergency situations to get someone in treatment quickly to save their life.”
The judge, whose district also includes Lincoln County, says he is looking at a plan that would call for renting four beds at the cost of $438 a bed per month.
“I would like Boone County to rent one of the beds, Lincoln County to rent one of the beds and the counties drug courts and state Supreme Court budgets could rent the other two beds,” he said.
The judge added that the normal 28-day treatment plan for $438 is a better investment than the approximately $600 a month cost to the county for its jail bill if he has to put a drug addict behind bars.
“If I don’t get them treatment and if I don’t put them in jail, then they are only going to steal and commit other crimes to get money for their addiction,” he said. “At least rehab and treatment give us a chance to get them back to being productive citizens in our society. It is the best chance we have right now.”
The commission voted unanimously to support the proposal. The judge said he would be talking to Lincoln County commissioners next and doing some fact-finding before the plan of renting treatment beds would actually begin.
“It seems as if we have lost an entire generation of our youth to illegal drug use and addiction,” said Boone County Commission President Mickey Brown. “I support any plan that could help reduce these alarming statistics. It is a plague on our communities and we must do whatever we can to try to stop it.”