Drug court participates in city cleanup

Published 10:15 am Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Harlan County Courthouse grounds received a thorough clean up on Wednesday, as participants in the Harlan Circuit Court and District Court Drug Court programs and the city of Harlan kicked off a program to help keep the city clean.

Harlan Circuit Judge Kent Hendrickson explained what the drug court participants were working on.

“It’s a project through drug court where our participants are putting out plants and flowers all over the city to help beautify the city,” Hendrickson said. “They’ll water them and keep them up, to make the city even more beautiful for the summer.”

Drug court board member Mary Lou McCarthy explained how the participants came to be involved.

“Drug court participants are required to perform community service hours,” McCarthy said.

Harlan City Tourism Director Brandon Pennington took time from raking leaves and limbs blown down by a recent storm to talk about the beginnings of the program.

“I think the catalyst of all this was when Mary Lou (McCarthy) came over and talked to our office about putting together this project to bring drug court participants in to help paint the planters that are around town,” Pennington said. “The really deserve all the credit, they’ve put all this together.”

Drug court case manager Ashley Curry talked about the planning behind the program.

“Each month, we try to plan an event for the drug court participants,” Curry said. “It was Mary Lue’s month to plan an event, so she connected with Brandon Pennington and Shelby Wilson (City of Harlan) and we just brainstormed and made it happen.”

Crissy Warf, administrative assistant for Harlan Circuit Judge Kent Hendrickson, explained in order to participate in the circuit court’s drug court program, the commonwealth’s attorney recommends participation as part of a plea and the judge must accept it.

The Kentucky Court of Justice website at www.kycourts.gov states “Individuals eligible for Drug Court have been charged with drug use or nonviolent drug-related crime, with their main problems stemming from substance use disorder. Drug Court combines close court supervision and treatment with other services to intervene and break the cycle of substance abuse and crime.”

Warf added participation in drug court is voluntary.

“The participants working out here today are phenomenal,” Pennington said. “They’re really good people. They are so dedicated to making sure our community is being beautified. We’re grateful they’re willing to come out and help with this project.”

Curry mentioned the drug court participants have some incentives for doing the best job when cleaning up the city.

“We have an incentive closet,” Curry said. “If the participants meet a goal, they get to go shopping in the incentive closet. So, Mary Lue (McCarthy) and Shelb (Wilson) came up with the idea that each week the participants will be assigned to an area downtown and that area will be judged each week. If that area wins, (McCarthy) has a grant to provide a gas card to the participants.”

Wilson pointed out the project is a group effort, involving multiple organizations including Drug Court programs from both Harlan Circuit and District Court, the staff of the Harlan Center, the city of Harlan, the Harlan County Fiscal Court and others.

“Mayor Joe Meadors has been here all morning, he’s supporting all this,” Wilson said. “It’s not just one group, it’s a community project. The Harlan Fiscal Court has told us we can get what we need, so there are a lot of people that just want the place cleaned up.”

McCarthy noted knowing they are supported is important for the success of drug court participants.

“Research shows folks are more successful as far as staying sober when we provide them support,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got all kinds of different agencies here providing that support…we’re out here working together to make our community better.”

Hendrickson mentioned there have been drug court participants who have succeeded in many areas.

“We’ve had some graduate from college, and do amazing things,” Hendrickson said.