By Crystal J. Damron
Dec. 25, 2013 — Last week Drug Court added seven more lives, seven more families changed for the better, as a result of its list of graduates.
A total of 29 persons have completed the program from Carter, Elliott and Morgan counties since the spring of 2007. Carter is home to 24 of the graduates.
“It's impressive because we know how hard they have had to work to get to this point and we had a lot of individuals come in with this class,” said Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips. “Not all of those individuals have made it through so it is impressive to see seven actually make it to the very end.”
Graduation is no easy accomplishment. The program takes a minimum of 18 months to complete. The first month is the first phase, eight to 12 months is the second phase and the third phase is anywhere from three to six months.
“It just depends on how well someone does as to how quickly they progress through the program,” Phillips said.
When someone begins the program they are required to complete three educational group sessions with the drug court staff. Each week they have one individual session with drug court staff, attend Drug Court once a week in front of Judge Phillips and attend three self-help meetings per week with the program of their choice.
Locally, those include Lifeline, NA, AA or Celebrate Recovery. The individual also submits to drug testing at least three times per week.
Drug Court participants have an 8 p.m. curfew, and must be working, going to school or participating in community service.
“Even the individuals that didn't make it all the way through, something has been said or something they have learned kicks in,” Phillips said. “We have success stories from people who don’t necessarily finish the program but ultimately they go on to do very well so we are proud of those individuals as well.”
This graduating class was a special group, according to Phillips, as the largest such class the program has ever seen.
Each graduate has either a high school diploma or a GED which some completed during the program.
Judge Phillips volunteers her time to this program. Drug Court participants also are helped by Billy Ousley, the recovery coordinator, and Jessica Newman, case specialist. Many other members of the community also volunteer for the board.
“We are glad they are continuing to fund the program through the state,” Phillips said. “Obviously when the budget cuts were being discussed cutting all the programs was something that was discussed. At one point they put a cap on the number of participants we were allowed to have and at that time we were approximately ten people over, which meant we couldn't take anyone new. That cap has been lifted so as many participants as we can effectively manage then we want to take them in because we want to try and make this available to as many people as we can.”
Drug Court is administered through the Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort, which oversees 55 adult programs that serve 115 counties. Drug Court’s mission is to provide court-supervised treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
For every $1 spent on Drug Court graduates, the state saves $2.72 on what it would have spent on incarcerating individuals.
During the graduation State Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott shared his personal family struggles and thoughts with addiction.
“Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer,” Scott said. “This is not seven individuals but it's seven families.”
“The only way to overcome addiction is to do it yourself. Your family can not do it for you.”
Sen. Robin Webb described it this way:
“Carter County Drug Court graduation was special tonight. The success and transformation of our folks moved me as usual. There were so many there to acknowledge and support them. Employers who stood by them, families torn by addiction, reunited. The drug court team, Judge Phillips and others honored their success. Children were clinging to their once detached parents and the glow of parental pride was evident.”
Longtime Drug Court board member Willie Patton added:
“We have been at it for a while. We have seen some very dark days but today is just the opposite. This is our biggest class but is it not only big in numbers. It is big in accomplishments as well, the GED's, the work ethic that these folks have shown is just spectacular and I'm just proud of them all and want bigger and better things for them.”
“Drug Court is a demanding journey and gives the tools to maintain sobriety in recovery. What a wonderful Christmas present for these families and what hope they give to others. They make me proud and they are worth it.”
Crystal Damron can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 474-5101.