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New bill aims to help fight substance abuse

Louisiana State Capitol
Louisiana State Capitol(WAFB)
Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 7:04 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The opioid epidemic has been an increasingly difficult challenge for lawmakers to get under control but now, with a new bill produced by the Drug and Specialty Courts Commission, there could very well be a solution.

“I didn’t ask to be an addict, I didn’t ask to be addicted to opioids or to crack, I didn’t ask to not see my family or my children for so long,” said drug court participant Jennifer Hollman.

People like Hollman found themselves caught up in the criminal justice system after facing criminal charges for substance abuse. She said it was never her intention to let her habit get out of control.

“When I started using, I was in high school; I was young. It was social. It was drinking, it was smoking marijuana, it was all the fun things I thought they were until they weren’t fun anymore,” Hollman explained.

Thanks to what’s known as a drug court, she was able to take control of her life and was able to re-enter the community as a productive member of society.

“I can honestly say that drug court saved my life,” Hollman added.

It’s a court program that offers individuals the opportunity to enter long-term drug treatment and agree to court supervision rather than receiving a jail sentence. The bill that’s on the table will create funds to expand these programs across the state.

“If it wasn’t for the drug court and the long-term program that has different levels to it, I think that’s very important,” Hollman noted.

While in the program, instead of jail time or probation and then likely re-entering, participants would take drug tests and be offered treatment or rehab.

“Today, I’m a happy individual. I have a productive life. I’m a productive member of society and I do, I owe my life to drug court,” said Hollman.

Money for this program will come from settlements and penalties the state recovers in the fight against opioid use. That funding will be used to cover the cost of testing, assessing, and treating the participants. The vote to pass the bill will come once the session begins on April 12.

If the bill is passed, the goal is to implement at least one of these drug courts in every parish across the state.

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