WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - In honor of national recovery month, Forsyth County celebrated Saturday the success of its new drug court, recovery services and the ongoing Reclaiming Futures program--an effort that has garnered a $1.2 million federal grant for a youth drug court.
Forsyth County District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield joined Winston-Salem city council member Denise D. Adams, local mental health organizations and community members Saturday morning to encourage youth in Winston-Salem to use recovery services available to them. The recovery awareness event was at the Children's Home on Reynolda Road, which provides resources to at-risk youth in the Department of Social Services and juvenile court system.
Adams said the Children's Home is a key component of Reclaiming Futures, founded nationwide in 2001 but instituted in 2008 in several North Carolina counties. It proposes to "reclaim the lives of young people caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, to work within the juvenile justice system to help young people and their families break this cycle and to bring communities together to provide the treatment and support teenagers need."
The Forsyth County juvenile drug court, led by Hartsfield and juvenile court counselor Stan Clarkson, launched in November 2012 with funding from the four-year federal grant. Hartsfield and Clarkson said receiving the grant was a pivotal part in reinstating recovery services for at-risk youth. Clarkson said in 2011, funding for juvenile drug courts was nixed from the state budget.
Hartsfield said the youth drug court serves approximately 400 juveniles each month. Councilwoman Adams said such efforts to help the juvenile age group are a proactive approach to keeping juveniles out of the adult court and prison systems in the future. Hartsfield and Adams said parental support is key to success of the youth drug court services. They said for the most part, the youth drug court has proven successful for hundreds of teenagers.
Hartsfield said marijuana is the drug of choice for Forsyth County teenagers, but thanks to the juvenile drug court's efforts, she said, "The numbers are better and the drug screens are better and we are moving toward that day where there is going to be complete abstinence from the drug."
Local attorney Eric Ellison said, "We do the same job every day of trying to get these kids drug-free, trying to get them to go to school, trying to get them into other activities to keep the involved in treatment."
WFMY News 2 spoke with Joi Douglas, a youth coordinator for the North Carolina-based organization called Y.E.R.T--the Youth Engagement Response Team. Douglas explained the organization is comprised of individuals who have gone through their own struggles and now want to help others battling internal problems. Before a crowd at the Children's Home event, Douglas admitted since the 11th grade, she has struggled with depression, as a result of coping with the loss of her baby and the murders of two friends.
"I've received different services, and I was fortunate enough to experience what works in the system and what doesn't work. As a young adult coordinator for YERT, which is the Young Adult Youth Engagement Response Team, we use our experiences to work with providers to find better ways of engaging people to receive treatment," Douglas said.
Hartsfield and Adams said it is never too late for youth to get their lives back on track, but it is important for the city to take a proactive approach to helping them get the recovery resources they need.
Adams said, "There is never a moment when you can't get your life back, and with all of the help that's out here to help you, you transition back to your life. So I engage and implore parents, friends, neighborhood people--if you know someone that needs this type of help, please get in touch with the recovery program through the judicial system."
She added, "Why wouldn't we spend the money and the time on the front end versus spending the money of tax payers on the back end to help them at that point? If we can get them on the front end... if we're just more proactive with our youth, give them the opportunities and the choices to make great decisions, I think that we can help make this better."
WFMY News 2