Monday, June 10, 2013

Drug Court Graduation

Recently I attended the Taylorsville Drug Court Graduation. This is a voluntary program of which someone who is charged with a drug or alcohol offense can participate.

According to Judge Michael Kwan, “These people have realized that parts of their life are out of control and they want to gain that control back.” This program has been going for 14 years and has had 42 graduation ceremonies. Over 1000 people have graduated.

The graduation ceremony I attended had eight graduates. Speakers included Councilmember Kristie Overson who said, “I commend all of you for being here tonight. You are here because of some good and not-so-good choices. The not-so-good landed you here today, but the good choices are to work hard to be here tonight. I admire you for that and appreciate you. We are where we are because of those decisions. We look forward to you giving back to our community. Thank you for your example tonight.”

Then Police Chief Tracy Wyant spoke and congratulated them on their achievement. “You are at a new crossroads and a new chapter in your life. I would ask you give that some real thought and choose the correct path,” he said. “You made some mistakes to be here, but everyone in this room makes mistakes. You are not unique or isolated in that. Recognize that, but don’t allow that to keep you down.”

During the ceremony Alan Kirkwood, a volunteer for Freeway Watch and the father of a child killed by someone under the influence, gave Judge Kwan an award for “his perseverance in making this program happen.”

A few of the graduates read letters that they wrote talking about their experiences in the program. One said how nice it felt to be “in a clear-headed state.” Another one said, “I am grateful there is a program like this available. Without this program I would not have been able to keep my license, and keep my job. I have been clean and sober for two years.”

A third graduate said, “I had no desire to quite doing drugs. After a few weeks in the program I realized how messed up my life was. It has been 12 years and I am ready to stand on my own. I don’t have to medicate to get through life.”

Marjorie Rawlinson, one of the graduates said, “It sucked in the beginning. It was so hard. They take over your life. I’ve been in it a long time.” She said that the $8 per month was a small price to pay to stay clean. “I’ve been doing drugs for 20 years. Today I have an actual relationship with my children. I was high most of their life, and now I know what is going on in their lives and they know what is going on in mine. It’s great.”

Participants are charged a fee based on their income level and the costs incurred. They begin with a court date each Tuesday to make sure they are on track with the judge. According to Kwan, “The statistics show that of 100 people ordered to have an assessment and treatment only one will still be in a treatment in a year.” Because of these stats, he said that close supervision is important. So are timely consequences and rewards. When a participant does well, they get rewards like attending court less often, and even gift cards. If they mess up, they may have to increase their court dates.

This program also includes drug tests and group treatment. The group treatment is run by someone who is a licensed substance abuse counselor and there is a minimum of peer treatment once per week. Counselors also encourage community-based support groups so participants can meet sober people and get into a sober environment.

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