CHARLESTON, W.Va.—Reconnecting McDowell, a public-private partnership designed to reinvigorate McDowell County, W.Va., announced today a major initiative that will help alleviate the crush of drug court cases.
At a news conference, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis announced the creation of a McDowell County juvenile drug court.
The county has the nation's highest rate of unintentional deaths from abuse of prescription narcotic drugs, according to the American Medical Association. The McDowell County Sheriff's Office says most of its 20-24 calls per month involve overdoses and/or deaths from prescription drugs.
"We have to reverse the insidious drug culture that is ruining kids' futures and, sadly, taking too many lives. We're dealing with a significant public health crisis but also a massive criminal problem that has been taxing our courts," Davis said at a news conference held before the start of a two-day Reconnecting McDowell working retreat. "A separate juvenile drug court will help alleviate stress on our court system and be able to deal with cases in a more timely fashion."
Davis introduced Mercer County Family Court Judge Lisa Clark, who has been assigned to preside over the new McDowell juvenile drug court. Davis also announced that the state Supreme Court has signed on as a partner with Reconnecting McDowell, joining more than 60 other partners.
The Reconnecting McDowell partners are meeting in Charleston today and Tuesday to discuss accomplishments of the initiative, which was launched in December 2011, and to plan and strategize for the long term.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and the lead convener of the partnership, said there has been a lot of activity in the past four months, but it is just the beginning of a long process.
"Working with the McDowell community, we have begun the process of rethinking students' educational opportunities and linking them with greater economic opportunities. It takes more than just looking at the four corners of a school, which is why there are more than 60 partners in this process," Weingarten said.
Some of Reconnecting McDowell's accomplishments:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the state of West Virginia's $1 million grant to Save the Children.Passage of state legislation that will make innovative education change possible in McDowell County and other counties in the state.The Benedum Foundation's $100,000 grant for planning purposes.Frontier Communications' $100,000 contribution to work with Globaloria's online learning projects.The AFT Educational Foundation's $100,000 planning grant, plus $14,000 from the AFT and AFT staff members, which will enable First Book to provide one book for every McDowell County child as well as fund a library makeover for Mount View High School.The AFL-CIO's $6,500 to provide water lines for new homes that will help with teacher recruitment.Ongoing professional development for McDowell teachers and staff.