BELTON — The Bell County Commissioners Court authorized extending the county’s drug court program into Lampasas County next year.
The court, a jail diversion program running in Bell County since 2010, targets high-risk offenders and works with them to overcome addictions.
Currently 47 people are enrolled in the program, said Todd Jermstad, director of the Bell-Lampasas Community Supervision and Corrections Department.
He added that once the program is expanded, it should help treat another 10 people.
While the court is primarily funded through a state grant of about $100,000, it does receive some probation and court costs.
Bell County Judge Jon Burrows said when the legislation requiring the creation of a drug court by counties with more than 200,000 residents was first passed in 2007, Bell County leaders weren’t sure if it was needed or if the money to create the court was available.
“With the cooperation and creativity of Todd and Judge Rick Morris, we’ve been able to get this court up and running on just the funds we receive from the state,” Burrows said at the commissioners’ regular Monday meeting.
The program will be implemented in the 27th District Court because it is the only court that has a multicounty jurisdiction, Burrows said.
Because drug usage cuts across a large swath of the population, the mandate of the court is fairly large.
Although the majority of cases that go through the drug court are possession charges, any nonviolent case “with drugs at its core” is eligible, Jermstad said.
He also said that dealing with substance-abuse cases requires a great deal of coordination.
“We are dealing with co-occurring problems,” Jermstad said. “Because of the high substance abuse rates among the mentally ill, if we treat substance abuse without treating an underlying mental illness, it’s a waste of time and money. It’s only a matter of time before a person relapses.”
To combat the problems of substance abuse by the mentally ill, some of the patient assessments will cross over into a mental health assessment, Jermstad said.
Many of the newly created single-issue courts, such as drug, mental health, veterans and prostitution courts, are signs of an evolution in criminal justice thinking and that the community has readily embraced them, Jermstad said.
“I’m shocked at how much community support there is for this court,” Jermstad said “We have people from all walks of life coming to our graduation ceremonies.”
Additionally, the commissioners voted to abandon a 0.165-acre right of way known as Spanish Oak Lane within the Berry’s Live Oak Estates subdivision in Salado.