Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Drug Court conference to be held in Natchez May 20-22

May 14, 2009

A recovering methamphetamine addict who uses his story of attempted suicide as a one-man anti-drug campaign will kick off the Mississippi Association of Drug Court Professionals annual conference in Natchez May 20.

David Parnell of Dresden, Tenn., will speak at 1:45 p.m. at the Natchez Convention Center.

Parnell, a frequent speaker to students across the country, uses his own misshapen face and near-death experience to educate about the dangers of drugs. His 23-year path of addiction started with marijuana use at age 13. In earlier presentations he has described paranoia during the latter stages of his methamphetamine addiction, when he shot up his own house, watched a deliveryman through his rifle scope, threatened his wife with a shotgun, and shot himself in the head with an SKS assault rifle when his wife told him she and the children were leaving.

Parnell is the first speaker of a three-day conference that will include presentations from mental health and drug treatment professionals, law enforcement, corrections officers and judges. Conference speakers will delve into the science of addiction, the interaction of drug addiction and mental illness, HIV risks, and treatment strategies for specific populations such as women and juveniles. Experts will talk about street drugs from a law enforcement perspective, probation supervision issues, and strategies for effectively managing drug courts, among other topics.

More than 250 people, including judges, drug court staff, law enforcement, correctional officers and drug treatment providers, are expected to attend the fifth annual conference.

May is National Drug Court Month. Drug courts around the nation are celebrating 20 years of the drug court movement, which started in Miami, Fla.

Mississippi’s drug court movement started 10 years ago with the founding of the first felony drug court in the 14th Circuit District of Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties. Mississippi currently has 31 drug courts – 21 adult programs and 10 juvenile programs. More than 2,100 people are currently enrolled in drug court programs around the state.

MADCP President Marcus Ellis of Walnut Grove, drug court coordinator for the 8th Circuit Drug Court, will convene the training conference at 1 p.m. May 20. Circuit Judge Vernon Cotten of the 8th Circuit will give the invocation. Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton and National Drug Court Institute Executive Director Carolyn Hardin of Washington, D.C., will welcome participants.

Dr. Stephanie Covington, Ph.D., of La Jolla, Calif., will give the conference keynote address at 1 p.m. May 21. The clinician, author, organizational consultant and lecturer has more than 25 years of experience in the design and implementation of treatment services for women. Covington is co-director of the Institute for Relational Development and the Center for Gender and Justice. For the past 15 years, Covington has worked to help institutions and programs in the criminal justice system develop gender-responsive services. She has provided training, technical assistance, and consulting services to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, National Institute of Corrections, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Correctional Services of Canada, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and numerous state and local jurisdictions.

Several of the presentations focus on how to help people who don’t want help. Dr. Joseph Griebler, Ph.D., speaking at 3:30 p.m. May 20, will talk about how to treat resistant clients. Griebler is Director of Acute Male Psychiatric Services at Mississippi State Hospital.

Dr. Matt Buckley, Ph.D., will speak at 8 a.m. May 21. His presentation is titled “Logic and reason have nothing to do with it: How addiction and mental illness affect families.” Buckley, a licensed professional counselor, is former chair of the Division of Counselor Education and Psychology at Delta State University.

In a concurrent presentation at 3:30 p.m. May 20, attorney Austine Long will talk about law, ethics and confidentiality in the drug court setting. Long, a staff member at the National Drug Court Institute in Washington, is project director for technical assistance for adult and family drug court programs. She previously served as an assistant public defender in Durham, N.C., where she represented juveniles in delinquency proceedings and parents in abuse, neglect and dependency proceedings. She also served as the defense attorney on both the adult drug court and family dependency treatment court teams.

Dr. Leo Kadehjian, Ph.D., of Palo Alto, Calif., will talk about “Toxicology in plain and simple English” at 9:45 a.m. May 21. Kadehjian is a biomedical consultant with experience in on-site drug testing programs. He lectures and writes about clinical, scientific, regulatory and legal issues in drug testing.

Other speakers during the three-day program include:

• Rankin County Court Judge Thomas H. Broome, who oversees the Rankin County Juvenile Drug Court;
• Attorney Pamela A. Ferrington of Natchez, who defends clients referred to drug court;
• Marc Fomby of Pearl, a former police officer who provides training about juveniles, gangs and drugs;
• Christy Gutherz, Mississippi Department of Corrections Region II community corrections director;
• Carolyn Howard, HIV instructor/counselor for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Central Mississippi;
• Adams County Court Judge John Hudson of Natchez, who oversees the Adams County Juvenile Drug Court;
• Capt. Jeff Killion, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics;
• Donna Funderburke-McKinley of Birmingham, resource and education director of Safe Harbor;
• U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, who founded Mississippi’s first felony drug court when he was a state circuit judge in the 14th District;
• Circuit Judge Michael Taylor of Brookhaven, who oversees the 14th Circuit Drug Court;
• Mark Stovall, adolescent services coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.