EDINA, Mo. -- The 2nd Judicial Circuit's Drug Court program will be getting a bump in funding next year.
Local officials involved in the program say the additional funding is coming at a good time because of a recent uptick in cases involving opioid addiction.
"Methamphetamine is still a bad problem as well, but we have a number of people in our program who are addicted to opioids. So we're trying to help with that," said Thomas Redington, an associate judge in the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which covers Knox, Lewis and Adair counties.
Redington, who works out of Knox County, oversees the circuit's Drug Court. The program was recently awarded an $81,000 grant for fiscal 2019 from the Missouri Supreme Court and the Office of Supreme Court Administration. The funding is up 37 percent from last year.
Redington said the Drug Court program, now in its 15th year, has been effective in helping many local offenders stop using drugs while also keeping them out of prison for drug-related felonies.
The program involves the use of an Adult Drug Court, a DWI Court and a Family Drug Court in all three of the circuit's counties. Offenders plead guilty to drug-related offenses, but instead of going to prison, they agree to take part in Drug Court as a condition of their probation.
The participants work with counselors to learn how to stay away from drugs. They are also required to attend self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and they must be employed full time.
Participants are randomly tested about three times a week to prove they are staying "clean" from using drugs.
After staying in the program for an average of 18 to 24 months, successful participants can graduate from the program and go on with their lives.
Redington said about 60 percent of the participants in the program graduate. Of those, he said, 9 out of 10 graduates "never have another involvement" with drugs.
"The people that graduate don't get rearrested," he said. "It really helps straighten people out."
The Drug Court program "is really the only program that works with hard-core drug addiction," Redington said. "We get people back to work -- paying their child support, paying their taxes -- while we monitor them very carefully."
Currently, 43 people are participating in the 2nd Judicial Circuit's Drug Court program, with 27 of them from Adair County, 11 from Lewis County and five from Knox County.
Three people recently graduated.
Corey Moon, an assistant prosecuting attorney in Lewis County, is a member of the circuit's Drug Court Team, which keeps the program operating efficiently.
"I think it's a great program," Moon said, adding that he believes the program is having a positive impact by helping turn around the lives of some hard-core drug addicts.
"We're in the middle of the opioid epidemic right now," he said. "We've had several young people in the county overdose, and a couple of them died recently. So that just makes this program that much more important."
Moon said his uncle, John Moon, was a Clark County judge who started one of the first Drug Court programs in Missouri. So he has long been aware of the value of having such a program.
"It really is a benefit to the taxpayers," Moon said.
"It costs a lot more to incarcerate someone in prison than it does to fund this program and get the resources for people to keep them out of the prisons and out of the criminal justice system."