Alexandria, VA

After 16 months in operation, the Alexandria Drug Treatment Court has its first graduate. The program, which the Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney’s Office started with little funding, also just got a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The Treatment Court launched in September 2019 as an alternative to jail for individuals with substance abuse issues. Most participants have been to jail multiple times. Participants usually meets every Thursday in the Alexandria Courthouse, although the building at 520 King Street is largely shut down now due to COVID-19 and meetings have been held virtually.

Program graduate Kim Christian (not her real name) entered the five-phase program in Nov. 2019 and graduated in a virtual ceremony ahead of schedule, as two years is the program average. She regularly met with a case manager, a probation officer, participated in recovery programs and regularly checked up with the court.

Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter said the virtual ceremony was a moving experience.

“One of the most wonderful things about the ceremony was the fact that the graduate, for the first time, had people within the criminal justice system trying to help her achieve something,” Porter told ALXnow. “The graduation ceremony was a true testament to the power of the program, and making a change.”

The new funds will allow Porter to triple the program for up to 30 participants, hire a full-time bilingual therapist, and also hire a treatment court coordinator to take administrative duties off the plate of David Lord, the assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney who has largely led the effort. Drug testing for participants will also be expanded.

Porter said it will take six-to-nine months to hire the new staff and expand the program. In the meantime, he said, the program will be slowly ramped up to increase the number of participants.

“The idea is to try to finally put some resources into them to kind of break that cycle of addiction and then recidivism,” Porter said. “One graduate is great, but we need more graduates.”

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