By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Belknap County Recovery Court is in the process of applying for $300,000 in state funding as it transitions from a volunteer program at the Circuit Court level to a full-fledged Drug Court at the Superior Court level.
Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center, a member of the volunteer group which oversees the Recovery Court, said she is working on the grant application with members of the Recovery Court team and expects it will be filed by the end of the month.
The Recovery Court meets weekly to monitor the progress of those accepted into the program, which offers alternatives to jail sentences for those willing to undergo counseling, undergo random and regular drug testing and commit to at least 250 hours of community service.
Other members are Circuit Court Judge James Carroll, Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, Jesse Friedman of the Public Defender's Office, the Laconia Division of Parole and Probation, Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, the Belknap County Restorative Justice Program, the Belknap County House of Corrections, Genesis Behavior Health and Laconia Drug Prevention, Education and Treatment Officer Eric Adams.
Currently the program has 11 participants and is looking to triple the number of participants when it transitions to the Superior Court level. Abikoff said that Judge Carroll will continue to be a part of the team after he retires as a Circuit Court judge at the end of May.
Abikoff said that state funding comes from HB 464, which was signed into law last year by Gov. Maggie Hassan and provides more than $2 million in matching state grants for counties to establish new drug courts and expand existing ones. Along with this money comes another $5 million over two years in federal aid to expand access to treatment for heroin and opioid disorders.
She said that the team working on the application is making sure that the treatment programs which are offered are in compliance with guidelines established by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
The Recovery Court had earlier this year sought approval from the Belknap County Commission to apply for a $400,000, three-year federal grant which would have been used to hire a full-time coordinator for the program and scale it up to the point where it will be able to more than double the number of people it served as it expands to cover Belknap County Superior Court.
Abikoff said that approach was abandoned after it was determined that a the court would only be eligible for those funds after it had been functioning as a state approved Drug Court for three years.
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