Drug counseling cuts threaten Angelina Co. drug court's outreach

Cacey Kennidy, drug court grad
Cacey Kennidy, drug court grad
Drug court manager Judge Paul White
Drug court manager Judge Paul White
ADAC substance abuse counselor Keith Smith
ADAC substance abuse counselor Keith Smith

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's toted as the only proven success when dealing with drug addicts. It's biggest proponent and manager, District Judge Paul White, believes a key component is at risk thanks to state budget cuts to counseling and intervention services.

"As I got into drug court thing, farther I got along, I didn't want to use anymore. I found something different," said Cacey Kennidy, drug court graduate.

Cacey Kennidy stands proud. She now works at a doctors office, and was able to get her kids back.

"I was a drug-user along with selling it and making it... I ended up getting busted," said Kennidy.

Thanks to Judge White's drug court, she says she has a new and better life.

"I have everything I ever thought I deserved," said Kennidy.

It's not an easy road.  The 2-year program includes hours of therapy each week. Time spent working on coping skills, decision-making, & healthy choices.  Substance abuse counseling is at the core of drug court, but state budget cuts are causing a huge strain.

"Burke Center came to me 3 or 4 months ago because of funding cuts they knew were coming. They needed to relinquish that," said Judge White.

Placing the entire caseload on the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council (ADAC).

"Now, we're finding out there's an additional 5% cut," said Keith Smith, ADAC substance abuse counselor.

...Creating an uncertain future for drug court.

"We may have to cap out drug court because they're inability - through no fault of their own - to handle our participants," said White.

So where do cuts to counseling and intervention services lead us? It leaves more drug addicts in a jail cell like this. with limited access to life-changing services they need.

It's obvious to Kennidy why jail isn't the answer.

"I can tell you when I was in jail the very first time I got in trouble and busted... My thoughts were... I was going to go back out and use again. I couldn't wait," said Kennidy.

It was through drug counseling that started the change.

"You can see the gears start turning in their head. They're thinking things through... When they come up with the right answer - or the healthy answer," said Smith.

Exactly how the new cuts will affect ADAC is still uncertain. Counselor Keith Smith says they'll know more by August.