Million dollar grant helps more people kick alcohol and substance abuse

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - - A hefty grant is expected to help people kick their substance abuse and mental problems.  It's dollars that one judge said could help solve Richmond County's gang problem too.  

"We have a curfew in Augusta Richmond County," District 5 Commissioner Andrew Jefferson said. "If we can get some help from families to impose that curfew during most of the times most of these shootings happen."  This was his response to multiple shootings back in June when we asked him if Augusta has a gang problem. He said no.

"We're not trying to cripple the gang, we're trying to annihilate it," said Sheriff Richard Roundree later when we learned there are gangs and organized crime in the Garden City.

In fact, a 42-count grand jury indictment names Jamal "Shoota" Moss as a member of the local Bloods and accuses him of fatally shooting Michon Robinson on Alpine Road in June.

Now, Jefferson tells NewsChannel 6 he's more aware.

He said, "It's not that we're trying to make light of what gangs are doing.  But we just do not understand the underground communication and the way that they are set up because if you see a few people with matching t-shirts on the basketball court what do you say?  That's a gang."

Jefferson believes he's not alone and that his constituents may agree.  

Part of the solution could lie in a more than $1 million grant powered by the state court's Accountability Program. 

Judge David Watkins said, "Constant marijuana use, especially with the grade that's out there now and it typically goes up to age 24 that's where they're landing on, it does brain damage."

Judge Watkins leads the program that focuses on mental health and substance abuse such as possession of marijuana.  He said a lot of youth are caught with what research shows is a gateway drug and then impaired judgement leads to criminal activity.  

The program coordinator, Crystal Page, said the million dollar grant will help 40 more people with alcohol and drug treatment and provide more services too. 

"The difference is the in patient and also intensive outpatient," she said.  "Those who may not need to go to a facility away from home, but actually may need more than one class a week."

The funds also:

  • Provide alcohol/drug substance treatment for 40 participants
  • Provide intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment for 10 participants
  • Enroll 10 participants per year into a Sober Housing Program
  • Enroll 10 participants per year into a State approved MAT program (medically assisted treatment)
  • Provide assistance for license reinstatement for 40 participants per year

The Solicitor General's Office qualifies people for the program that has already graduated more than 400 people.  Page said a team assess the work put in by the individual to determine success. 

"Those who are in compliance are rewarded," Page said.  Those who are in non-compliance there may be sanctions.  That's the accountability part of it." 

Page added that the grant is vital for people who just can't afford the treatment.  She says in-patient care runs around $30,000 a year.  It starts at the of September and runs for three years. 

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps 

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