Monongalia Co. judge: “Heroin has once again reared its ugly head.”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A Monongalia County drug court program, 6 years old, will not be eliminated any time soon. It’s required by state law.

And, there’s a need.

Circuit Court Judge Russell Clawges, Jr., on the bench since 1997, has seen a significant increase in drug addiction and non-violent crimes that go hand-in-hand.

“It’s people who are either stealing, property type crimes, and they’re stealing solely for the purpose of either trading what they’ve obtained for drugs or pawning them,” Clawges explained on Morgantown-AM Wednesday.

In 2009, Monongalia County implemented a specialized drug court for those types of offenders.

According to Clawges, a problem with opiods has lead to a problem with heroin.

“Most people we see who are using heroin started using prescription pain medication,” said Clawges. “I went for many, many years and you really never heard about heroin. It’s only been in the last 4 to 6 years since we started our program that heroin has once again reared its ugly head.”

Those who qualify for drug court can avoid time behind bars saving incarceration costs of up to $30,000 a year, Clawges said.

“People with addictions, even though sent to jail or prison, if they go in addicted they come out addicted even with treatment programs.”

Nineteen drug court offenders have successfully completed the stringent, closely monitored program in Monongalia County.

They start the program with required inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment and weekly meetings with drug court officials.

Lifestyle goals must also be met for successful completion.

“By the time they end the program, they should be employed. They should be in stable housing. They should be working their recovery. It doesn’t just end at the end of the program. Hopefully it’s just the beginning,” Clawges explained.

In 2009 the West Virginia Legislature passed the West Virginia Drug Offender Accountability and Treatment Act which helped structure and establish requirements of adult drug courts in the state.