LAMPASAS - When he was a lawyer, 27th District Court Judge John Gauntt witnessed three methamphetamine addicts fully recover from their addictions. That’s one of the reasons he fully supported the commissioners court decision Monday to expand Bell County’s Drug Court to Lampasas County.
The 27th district includes both Bell and Lampasas counties.
“I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and this is an alternative to the penitentiary program,” Gauntt said. “It’s an intensive program,”
Lampasas County’s Drug Court will begin operating in March.
The program is completely funded by a state grant and is free to Lampasas County, officials said. Operating since 2010, Bell County’s Drug Court is a rigorous adult probationary program that addresses the underlying problems that come with drug addiction and abuse.
“The participants will mainly have a past history of enrollment in a drug treatment program, be nonviolent offenders or have a possible case or crime that was motivated by drug use,” said Todd Jermstad, 27th district community supervision and corrections department director.
The Lampasas program will serve a maximum of 10 county offenders referred by Gauntt. Reporting three weeks out of the month to a local supervisor, the participants will receive individual counseling, group counseling and diagnostic testing to determine possible mental health problems and substance abuse issues, Jermstad said.
“We deal with a lot of mental health issues because there are less treatment options (in Lampasas County),” he said. “With drug abuse, there are always underlying issues ... and a lot of people self-medicate.”
Once in the program, participants are required to attend informal monthly Drug Court sessions to ensure they are reaching probationary goals. The court has the power to hand out praise, give incentives and also sanctions such as jail time or requiring that offenders be placed in a residential treatment facility.
Although Lampasas County does not have a large drug problem, according to Jermstad, he said individuals in the area are much more likely to respond to treatment.
“It’s a wonderful program and it doesn’t cost the county anything,” Gauntt said.