VANCEBURG, KY -- Kentucky's 20th judicial district is offering an innovative program to help local families identify and - it's hoped - prevent drug abuse.
District Judge Brian McCloud developed the program in coordination with Circuit Court Clerks and state legislators. It offers take-home drug testing kits for just $5 each to any resident of Lewis or Greenup Counties in northeastern Kentucky.
"It has been very successful so far," McCloud told The Ledger Independent of Maysville. "It's a great program and we hope to keep it going."
McCloud says he sees the testing kits as both a supervisory tool for people who are already in the court system or have substance abuse issues. He believes they could deter young people who may be more likely to turn down drugs if their parents have testing supplies on hand.
Typical take-home drug-testing kits are available at retailers and online, but run anywhere from $25 to more than $70. McCloud said he began ordering regular at-home testing for juveniles involved with drug offenses when he took the bench about two years ago. He says some families found the testing requirements to be too much of a financial burden.
"They would say 'We just can't afford to give them the tests every week,'" McCloud said.
The judge says he did some research and uncovered about $800 left over in a Circuit Court fund intended specifically for drug education, prevention and treatment. He used the money to buy testing kits from the Greenup County Jail and started selling them to the families of juveniles in the court system for $5. McCloud says the kits were free to some who could not afford the reduced cost.
The number of people utilizing the tests steadily grew and McCloud eventually discussed the program's success with Democratic state Rep. Tanya Pullin of South Shore. Pullin quickly offered her support.
"I was very pleased to work with him to try something different and to empower parents with some additional tools," Pullin said.
Pullin praised McCloud for the innovative approach to a long-standing problem.
"I told her we had a real need for this, among other things. She was able to help appropriate $3,000 a year for two years for the program," McCloud said.
McCloud said the courts were able to purchase better tests with the funds that detected more substances at a price of $8 each. The tests are still sold at $5 each with the hope of eventually making the program self-sustainable.
The tests were previously only available to those in the court system, but now the program is now open to the public.
McCloud says the goal is to try to address substance abuse problems before they lead to criminal charges and ultimately his courtroom.
Copyright - The Associated Press