Juvenile Drug Court Scores Federal Grant

BERLIN – The Worcester County Health Department’s Case Management Unit, in conjunction with the county’s Juvenile Drug Program, has received a $271,197 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.

Through the grant, the Juvenile Drug Court will be able to provide mentoring for participants in the drug court program. Before the grant, there had been problems with the budget.

“The grant is designed to provide mentoring and to enhance the local Drug Court Program. We had mentors in the original plan, but there were budget cuts,” said Eric Gray, the program director of Case Management.

With the new three-year grant, however, there’s now enough flexibility in funding to add the mentors back into the program.

“We were blessed to get the grant,” said Gray. “It will let us reintroduce the mentors.”

The services mentors provide for those involved in the Juvenile Drug Program vary widely. According to Gray, the mentors will assist with everything from recreation time to developing safer life-habits.

“Primarily the mentors will meet with the youths and their parents,” said Gray. ‘They’ll work with them and help keep track of community service. … Overall they’re going to try and teach participants to use their time in better ways than they previously have.”

Other mentor duties listed on the Case Management Services website include discussing peer pressure, assisting with school and interacting with participant’s families.

Any minor age 6-18 may enroll in the program. Gray estimated that there can be anywhere from seven or eight participants up to 15-20 at any given time. Possible candidates are generally referred to the service via the Alternate Directions Program, the Juvenile Drug Court itself or the Department of Juvenile Services.

While the number of participants doesn’t seem incredibly high, that’s because the program is never mandatory.

“You must volunteer to participate,” said Gray.

According to the Case Management Services website, the target group for the program is, “high-risk adolescents in need of a stable role model.”