Judge: Drug court out of money

Published 12:27 am Friday, August 5, 2016

NATCHEZ — The Sixth Judicial District’s drug court program is out of money to make payroll for the year, and so county officials are asking other counties to kick in additional funds for the program.

Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders met with the Adams County Board of Supervisors Thursday as part of the county’s ongoing budgeting process for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

During the discussions, the judge told the supervisors the program was out of money, Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said.

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The drug court program — which requires participants to undergo intensive, long-term treatment and counseling in exchange for reduced or dismissed charges — is funded by a grant, but Adams County also supplements it with an additional $30,000 annually, Lazarus said.

Other counties in the Sixth District — Franklin, Wilkinson and Amite counties — are apparently not putting any money into the program even though it benefits their residents as well, he said.

“We did the $30,000 this year, and we put another $10,000 in it already,” he said. “All those other counties are supposed to fund it as well.”

In some instances, Adams County has been paying travel reimbursements for drug court travel to work in other counties. Lazarus said that had to stop so that Adams County didn’t get in trouble with the state auditor.

“I am not sure it is legal to be paying someone to go work in another county,” he said.

Lazarus said County Administrator Joe Murray and Sanders would contact other counties to find out if they will put money into the program.

Sanders could not be reached for comment by phone Thursday afternoon.

In other news, during Thursday’s budgeting session, the supervisors also met with Judge Forrest Johnson and representatives from Southwest Mississippi Mental Health.

Chancery Judge George Ward also met with the board to make sure the board was budgeting an additional $17,000 in pay raises for court reporters.

The pay raise are mandated by the state, Lazarus said, but the board had been previously aware of it and had included it in county plans.