Drug testing sends Hancock Co. Youth Court over budget - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Drug testing sends Hancock Co. Youth Court over budget

Hancock County Youth Court Judge Elise Deano said 75 percent of the DHS cases that come before her are drug related. (Photo source: WLOX) Hancock County Youth Court Judge Elise Deano said 75 percent of the DHS cases that come before her are drug related. (Photo source: WLOX)
HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Hancock County leaders are scrambling, trying to come up with money to cover a $93,000 budget shortfall within its youth court system. The cost of court ordered drug testing is being blamed for much of that shortfall.

Hancock County Youth Court Judge Elise Deano said 75 percent of the DHS cases that come before her are drug related. Often times, reuniting parents with their children hinges on a parent's sobriety.

"When you have someone doing what I would call higher end drugs, when I say higher end I mean more hardcore drugs, that's a horrible thing to fight. The only way to maintain compliance and make sure they're not using anymore, and I know how hard it is and relapse is part of recovery, so we need to know so we can keep them on the right track," explained Deano.

Deano said sometimes a parent will be required to take a drug test twice a month for several months at the parent's expense, but when a parent doesn't have the money, the youth court bares the cost.

"If a parent or individual goes there and can't afford a drug test, it's then billed to the county, which is a major concern of mine," said Hancock County Supervisor Tony Wayne Ladner.

Right now, drug testing is costing the youth court about $8,000 a month. Ladner said in most Mississippi Counties, DHS or the State Attorney General's Office pays for the cost of court ordered drug tests. Why that doesn't happen in Hancock County is a question he wants answered.

"It doesn't sit well with me," Ladner said.

"Board stands ready to help youth court get on its feet and see what we can do to get the problem under control," said Lisa Cowand, President of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors.

County leaders are now exploring their options, which include finding cheaper testing methods as well as opening a county run drug testing facility if that's more cost efficient.

Youth court leaders say the other issue driving up its budget is the cost to transport juvenile offenders to other counties to be housed.

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