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County’s first drug court moving closer to reality

: County Manager John Mitchell discusses plans to spend opioid settlement money as commissioners Daniel Andreotta and David Hill listen. : County Manager John Mitchell discusses plans to spend opioid settlement money as commissioners Daniel Andreotta and David Hill listen.

Henderson County’s first drug court is moving closer to hearing cases involving people struggling with addiction as leaders begin spending funds set aside from opioid settlements.


“We are actually at the place ready to move forward for the first cases in the near future,” Henderson County Manager John Mitchell told the Board of Commissioners during its monthly meeting on Wednesday.
Henderson County will receive $16 million over 18 years from the state as its part of national opioid settlements.
Commissioners heard an update during the meeting from a consultant and county health department staff member who have been working on finding ways to use the opioid settlement money to address the crisis in Henderson County.
The money will be used for the criminal diversion court in drug-related cases, substance abuse prevention, early intervention and recovery services.
The update on Wednesday included information showing that in Henderson County 84 percent of overdose fatalities are attributed to opioids. The state average is 75 percent. Children in foster care in the county due to parental substance abuse is 67.4 percent. The state average is 45.7 percent.
Speaking after the meeting, Mitchell said the numbers did not surprise him.
“We’ve been going through a national crisis and Henderson County is not immune to it,” he said.
The money Henderson County is receiving comes from settlements with opioid manufacturers and pharmacies. Both pots of money come with requirements for spending from the state.
Some of the money the county has already received from the settlements went toward training for the drug court, a coordinator for the drug court and a few county events to bring awareness to the opioid issue, Mitchell said. The court might also need an additional prosecutor for the district attorney’s office, he said.
The court will attempt to identify people who will benefit from treatment and counseling and help them find places to receive those services. Dealers and violent offenders will not be considered for alternatives to the more traditional outcomes in court, Mitchell said.
“There has to be somewhere these people go. There has to be services available,” Mitchell said. “It has to be multifaceted.”
Other ways the county is considering spending the opioid settlement money include expanding drug education in the county’s schools and funding support for social service workers who deal with parents struggling with addiction. If social workers are able to help parents overcome addiction, the parents will eventually be reunited with their children, he said.
More information about the strategic plan for using the opioid settlement funds should be available in a few days on the county’s website at www.hendersoncountync.gov.
In other business Wednesday:
• Commissioners heard an update on the map for the 2045 comprehensive land use plan.
• Board chairwoman Rebecca McCall asked for more volunteers for county boards and committees. Several vacancies exist on a number of boards and committees, she said.