Dewey was on probation in two counties and didn’t see a way out. On advice from his lawyer, he joined the Drug Court treatment program in Halifax County as a last-ditch effort to save his life.
“I don’t know about anyone else, but I was down to the animal level when I came in (to Drug Court),” Dewey said. “I started having seizures as a result of my substance use, and I didn’t know how to function in society anymore. I would be dead somewhere if not for Drug Court.”
Dewey, 26, said he was heading toward serious jail time or death. He said when he finally trusted himself and the Drug Court process, that’s when things started to turn around.
“I knew I needed that structured environment and a pre-step plan that was clear to follow,” he said. “The probation officer for Drug Court made all the difference. She was compassionate and understanding but also firm. She believed in me before I believed in myself, and that was key to my recovery. When I changed my attitude and took accountability for my actions, I was able to really take advantage of the program.”
The Harvest Foundation will invest $336,480 over the next three years to support startup costs for the Piedmont Adult Drug Court, located in Martinsville-Henry County. The court, established in October 2021, admitted its first participants in April 2022. The National Institute of Justice studied the drug court model for a decade. The study showed that the program “reduced recidivism by as much as 40 percent and resulted, on average, in public savings of $6,744 per participant.”
Sheryl Agee, senior operating officer at Harvest, said it’s part of the foundation’s mission to the community to research and fund innovative solutions that address barriers hindering people from a positive future.
“We feel this program is one of those solutions — it bridges the gap between our criminal justice system and treatment, a key step in long-term sobriety,” she said. “People who complete drug court programs are significantly less likely to be arrested again compared to those sentenced within the traditional system. Research shows that drug courts reduce crime and affect real and positive change in people’s lives.”
According to the Office of the Medical Examiner for Virginia, drug overdoses in Martinsville and Henry County run higher than state averages. Per 100,000, Virginia’s average is 27.1 compared to Henry County at 31.7 and Martinsville at 56.7. Law enforcement estimates that 80 percent of all arrests are drug-related, and re-incarceration rates for drug-related offenders average 70 percent. The Department of Social Services reports that 60 percent of children in the foster care system have parents who have abused illegal substances.
“Having grown up in this community, I have seen the damage that substance use disorders have on individuals, their families, and our community,” said Kelly Koebel, senior assistant director of clinical services at Piedmont Community Services. “I am so grateful to The Harvest Foundation for helping to support the Piedmont Adult Drug Court as we work to provide intensive wrap-around services to those suffering from substance use disorders so they can find lasting recovery.”
The Piedmont Adult Drug Court is a rigorous program with pending drug or drug-related charges. The program is a minimum of 12 months, with extended stays considered based on the participant’s progress. Following successful completion, the judge can rule in three ways: dismissal of the original charge; reduction of the original charge to a lesser charge with no active jail time to serve; or a suspended sentence.
“The Piedmont Adult Drug Court is extremely grateful to The Harvest Foundation for this significant grant, which will help us to fulfill our mission to reduce drug abuse and criminal recidivism in the local community,” said Martinsville Circuit Court Chief Judge G. Carter Greer.
Sandra Haley, public defender for Martinsville, Henry, and Patrick counties, added, “The Piedmont Adult Drug Court is a promising alternative to incarceration for folks who qualify, and it provides people with evidence-based tools to learn how to live in recovery.”
Judge Greer and Haley are part of the Piedmont Adult Drug Court team, comprising judicial, law enforcement, and community service partners to function effectively. Quincy Gravely, justice support supervisor at Piedmont Community Services, supports the program through his role. He said, “I am grateful to The Harvest Foundation for helping Piedmont Community Services provide much-needed resources in our community. Drug treatment court helps individuals realize that their recovery does not happen by chance but by change and accountability.”
Jurisdictions with drug courts show an 8 to 26 percentage point decrease in crime rates, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Piedmont Adult Drug Court program currently has six participants and plans to expand to serve 15 participants annually.
Visit piedmontcsb.org or call (276) 632-7128 to learn more.