McDowell County, in West Virginia, has a serious problem with drug abuse, and officials announced Monday the creation of a juvenile drug court to help deal with the problem.
The rural county has the nation's highest rate of unintentional deaths from abuse of prescription narcotic drugs, according to statistics cited by the group behind this new initiative. The drug court is one piece of a broader project, Reconnecting McDowell, that involves more than 60 public and private groups and plans to transform one of the state's lowest-performing school districts.
Education is the heart of the overall project, but organizers have said they must address other areas, such as infrastructure, technology, and health care, to affect students' achievement. News of the juvenile drug court comes at the start of a two-day meeting for involved groups.
"We have to reverse the insidious drug culture that is ruining kids' futures and, sadly, taking too many lives," said West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis at a news conference. "We're dealing with a significant public health crisis but also a massive criminal problem that has been taxing our courts. A separate juvenile drug court will help alleviate stress on our court system and be able to deal with cases in a more timely fashion."
Few additional details of the juvenile drug court, such as what it would do or how it's different than what exists now, were released Monday.
Reconnecting McDowell launched in December, and the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers is leading the initiative.
We'll keep you updated on what else comes out of this two-day planning session.