County’s drug court has first 3 graduates

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Collaborative program established in 2018 aimed at first-time offenders

  • Drug court grads
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After a little more than a year, the Mitchell County drug treatment court has its first graduates. Pictured, from left, is drug court attorney and advocate Dean Grindstaff, Chief District Judge Ted McEntire, drug court graduate Brian Elkins, drug court graduate Kristal Carver, drug court coordinator Vanessa Henley and probation officer John Boone. (MNJ/Brandon Roberts)

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BAKERSVILLE – About a year after it was established, the Mitchell County Drug Treatment Court recognized its first three graduates in a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Mitchell County Courthouse.

“Drug treatment court is not an easy program,” said Chief District Court Judge Ted McEntire, who presides over the drug court. “Participants have to complete more than 170 treatment hours, attend group meetings, appear about 30 times in front of a judge and meet 30 times with their case manager, and that is to graduate in the minimum time. I’d like to thank the county commissioners for funding the program coordinator. Mitchell County stepped up, put the program in place and it is changing people’s lives. These participants have put in a lot of time and effort to graduate.”

The drug treatment court in Mitchell County was established in November 2018 as a collaborative approach involving Mitchell, Yancey and Madison counties and is aimed at first-time drug offenders. Drug courts are less expensive and more effective than incarceration, according to statistics. 

A typical session of drug court consists of participants answering questions from Judge McEntire about their progress, usually responding to his first inquiry: “Tell me about your last two weeks.”

“To advance in our program, you must have ‘clean’ time,” McEntire said. “It’s important everyone in drug treatment court takes advantage of the tools people are trying to give them. We really get to know these people in drug court and it gets to where everyone involved wants to see them do well.”

McEntire told drug court graduate Brian Elkins he was “extremely proud of him” and was excited about his future.

“I just want to thank everyone who supported me,” Elkins said to his fellow drug court participants. “It’s been a long road and it’s tough. But, as long as you’re honest and can get past the first 60 days, It’s worth it.”

Drug Treatment Court Coordinator Vanessa Henley said Elkins had passed 60 drug screens while in drug court and never missed an office visit. 

“I’m going to miss you,” Henley told Elkins. “I’m hoping I’ll be calling you asking you to help me with someone else. You have done great with not only what you have done for yourself, but what you have done for the other drug court participants.”

After McEntire presented Elkins with a certificate and wooden bowl, Elkins turned to the other participants and said, “Hang in there.”

The second graduate recognized was Kristal Carver.

“We both started with probation 21 years ago,” John Boone, the probation officer who does drug court in Mitchell County, told Carver. “Now, you have a life you can enjoy.”

There were nine participants in Mitchell County drug court. A third graduate at the ceremony chose not to be publicly recognized.