WARTBURG (WATE) - The State of Tennessee is trying something new in dealing with drug-addicted criminals.
A long-term residential treatment facility is now open for non-violent offenders convicted of drug-related felonies.
State leaders and officials celebrated the opening of the residential recovery court Tuesday morning. It is the first statewide program of its kind in the country.
The 100-bed program is located within an existing annex on the Morgan County Correctional Facility.
The program will allow the state to divert people in need of substance-abuse treatment. The program could last from nine months to a year.
"We have an issue in Tennessee. We have too much drug abuse going on, and we have too many who get into our corrections system and get out and come back," said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
"Meth kind of got ahold of me in the last four years of my life," said Stephen Henry, a participant in the program.
Henry says he's ready to put his drug problems behind him. The Blount County native was arrested on meth-related charges in 2011 and has been in jail for the past year.
Henry, along with nine others, are part of the first group to enter into the new residential drug recovery court.
"I'm ready to finish this program and get on with my life," said Henry.
This recovery court is different from the other drug courts and recovery courts currently in operation.
The new residential drug recovery court is more intensive than the current program and offers services on a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week basis. There will be counseling and other support services to help people become productive members of society.
"We say make them taxpayers and not tax takers. Put them back in the community, so they can work and be with their families," said Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield.
Recovery courts could ultimately save taxpayer dollars.
While prison costs an average of $65 per prisoner per day, the recovery court will cost an average of $35 per person per day.
"Our state is really struggling with cost with maintaining the number of beds and the pressure on the Department to Corrections to create more beds, so we're looking at this for a good alternative to give people a last chance to turn their life around," said Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney.
Officials hope to gradually add more people to the residential drug treatment program, hoping to fill the 100-bed facility by the end of 2013.
Once a participant finishes the program, they will continue in after-care treatment their local county drug court.
Officials say this program could reduce the recidivism rate by about one third and hope to someday open other residential drug courts throughout the state.
The program will be operated by the Davidson County Drug Court Support Foundation, a private foundation.