How Can You Help?

If you truly want to make a difference in your community, offer your support to the Blount County Drug Court program.

Based on information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance abuse costs Blount County more than $100 million annually. Law enforcement officials estimate that at least 85 percent of the crime committed in the county — robberies, assaults, thefts and the rest — is linked to drugs. One in four arrests is for a drug offense. From the years 2000 to 2008, about half of the accused drug offenders had previously appeared in Blount County courts on drug charges.

Blount County Drug Court is giving nonviolent drug offenders a chance to change — if they are willing to take it. To get into the drug court program, every participant has to plead guilty and serves an initial 60 days in jail. After getting out, almost all are required to live at a halfway house. While there, they have to pay rent, get treatment, have random drug screens, work or actively seek work while doing community service, and to participate in a plan to pay probation or community corrections fees and court costs. Mess up and go back to jail.

The work is hard, but the reward — for both the participant and the members of the community — is well worth it. Even if you don’t buy into the idea that addiction and alcoholism are illnesses, consider it from a financial angle: Break the addiction, break the cycle of crime, count the results in dollars and cents.

But the program cannot operate without funding. And even with funding, the ledgers don’t tell the whole story. The numbers don’t describe how a tearful young mother, new to recovery and struggling to hold onto her family and her sobriety, gratefully receives a few toys to give to her children at Christmas. The figures can’t do justice to the look of gratitude on the face of a young man who gets dress clothes from program staffers who pat him on the back and wish him well on his first job interview. The statistics don’t take into account the late night phone calls program staff members receive, the extra expenses they shell out of pocket, the giving of themselves to those who fight every day to keep from sliding back into the darkness.

How can you help? Donate what you can financially, or contact the Blount County Drug Court program to find out how you can assist in other ways. Your services are needed, and your community could use your investment in its future health and well-being.