NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Overdose deaths remain a pressing problem in Davidson County despite numbers dropping slightly since last year, however, an intensive program is working to bring them down more.

According to the Metro Department of Public Health, an average of 9.5 people have overdosed and died per week the past two months in Davidson County.

During the first half of 2022, 13 people per week overdosed and died in Davidson County, which is a slightly lower number compared to that same time in 2021 when an average of 14.6 people overdosed and died per week.

Eleven people avoided becoming part of that statistic Wednesday when they graduated recovery court, a rigorous, two-year program in Davidson County designed for those in active addiction who will likely re-offend without intervention. Participants can choose to attend recovery court instead of serving jail time for their crimes. Once completing the intensive program, their charges are dropped.

Coty Lewis and Landon Dunn were among Wednesday’s graduates. Both men had overdosed on fentanyl and were brought back to life with the overdose-reversing drug, Narcan.

“I loved (fentanyl),” Lewis said. “That’s what I wanted. Now I don’t want to see it, touch it, hear about it, nothing. It’s killing people. Because you never know, that one time (you do it) and you’re gone, just like that.”

Initially, Lewis did not want to enter recovery court, but he chose it over jail time.

Dunn asked his attorney if he could participate in recovery court after having struggled with fentanyl and heroin addiction for decades.

“It’s one of those things where you take that risk when you buy [drugs]; you really don’t know what you’re getting, and everything is getting stronger and stronger,” Dunn said. “Whoever is using, they have to really want a different life, and that’s what it was for me.”

Davidson County Judge Gale Robinson, who runs the recovery court, knows the struggle of addiction himself, which is why he leads the program for no pay.

“I know what these people are dealing with, I know what their problems are, and it’s just an opportunity for me to turn back something to folks who are suffering from substance abuse disorder.”

Robinson told News 2 that watching the process the participants go through during recovery court is rewarding and the reason he hasn’t retired.

Robinson said this year’s recovery court saved taxpayers more than $415,000 because it kept the graduates out of jail. Upon completion, 31 total charges were dropped.

Despite graduating, participants will still attend meetings twice per week.

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