Drug court helps addicts

Saves money for the state, director says

By Dan Pennington - dpennington@civitasmedia.com

Drugs are used in epidemic proportions in the United States and worldwide.

In America, your boss, your employee, spouse or child can be a drug user.

This means recovery is a big deal and programs to help drug users quit using are important to society.

Drug court gives second chances to those who show a desire to quit using, and change their lives for the better.

The program provides eligible, non-violent felony offenders the opportunity to participate in the court supervised treatment program instead of going to prison.

This saves money for the state as well as other benefits, officials say.

The state pays approximately $19,000 per person in prison as compared to the approximately $5,000 costs for drug court.

The drug court re-arrest rate is 23.5% compared to those who complete standard probation at 38.2% and those who are released from prison at 54.3%, according to officials.

As with any program, there has to be accountability.

It is next to impossible for a person to manipulate the system, officials say.

Frequent drug tests and supervision by the court monitor those in the program.

The late Bryan County District Judge Farrell Hatch started Bryan County’s drug court.

He saw a need for citizens in this area to have that second chance.

Drug court is not for everyone.

Some people don’t realize the road they are traveling is usually a dead end.

Many never recover from their addictions and die young.

If they do not die, their life spirals out of control until they become incapable of maintaining a normal life.

Other drug-related crimes can make a person ineligible, too.

Samantha Dimas, Bryan County Drug Court Coordinator said, “In normal court setting, they determine if you’re guilty or not guilty and your punishment. In drug court, you have a choice. It’s in lieu of prison. We take mental health and the court system and combine them. We collaborate with a mental health setting. They do counseling, meetings, they do group individual as well as Narcotics Anonymous meetings. It’s an 18-month long program. It’s not prison, but it’s not freedom.”

Dimas takes her job personally, she passionately puts her heart into each situation.

She said, “Each person’s life is on the line here” and she wants to give every consideration possible.

She’s continuing to grow, to help her be better for those she helps.

She has been accepted into the School of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

She’s expected to graduate in the fall of 2019 gaining her Master of Arts-Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

It’s hard to find people who openly talk about their past, their addictions and how bad their life was.

Mike is a graduate of drug court and wants to help others by telling his story. He’s also a business owner. His life had spiraled out of control. He has been to prison twice and credits this program for saving him.

He said, “I deserved prison. I deserved a long sentence in prison. If I had been caught for everything I did, I would still be in prison today.”

Instead, Mike has become a productive member of society. He quit using, under supervision, and lives a good, clean life today.

Vincent is another drug court graduate who’s open about life and credits drug court with his new life.

He said, “You get to live your life on the outside, but you can’t be hanging around with bad people. You can’t hoot like an owl and hang with the eagles. You can’t fool drug court.”

He tells of how drug court helps people after losing privileges of society, “They can give you a waiver to drive to go to work if your license is suspended. They help in many ways.”

Vincent said about the original drug court judge, “We loved Farrell Hatch.”

Drug court saves the lives of those in the program which affects those around them.

Dimas said, “The court system determines eligibility “and says ‘“they’ve already been to prison or are about to go to prison and this is a last ditch effort to keep them out of prison.”

Being clean today doesn’t mean there is not temptation.

It’s around every corner, every minute of the day.

Drug court teaches people how to cope with those temptations and how to stay away from trouble.

Mike said, “The court gave me the opportunity to live a clean life, to be a man. I paint commercial and residential and do my best.”’

Many in drug court aren’t as open as Mike and Vincent. Many wish to go through the court, get on with their lives, stay out of trouble and blend back into society.

Both graduates wanted to share their story as part of their recovery, to help others who may need the help they received.

Dimas said about previous newspaper coverage, “Richard Chase would cover the court. He did a great job. I wanted the opportunity for people now to get a report on drug court. A lot of graduates move off, out of state. I wanted to give the opportunity to visit with these two.”

Drug court is not a free ticket out of jail. There are set requirements that have to be met and adhered to.

One requirement is graduates are required to get a job to be in the program.

Dimas said, “They are paying in taxes. They are providing for their families. Millions of dollars are being saved in the drug court program.”

Vincent credits many things for his success.

He said, “For me, God did that. Drug court is structured where you can’t get away with it. You have to get in line and change people, places and things. You do this for 18 months, you have a real good idea what it takes to be functional.”

He’s divorced and remarried. He’s made drastic changes in his life.

He said, “my present wife is sober. My previous wife couldn’t make the change.”

Vincent said his reward for the changes are many “I get to raise my kid,” eh said. “I’ve adopted a little girl. I didn’t really adopt her, but I did step up and I’m being her dad. We did paperwork, turned it in.”

Dimas said, “He’s known her mother a long time. They just made it official.”

Vincent said, “If I would have been sober when she was a baby, I’d have done the right thing then. These rewards, I just wanted to not go to prison at the time. I didn’t realize how therapeutic it would be at the time. Now all of a sudden, God is using me in way I never thought possible. I was the type that thought I would never quit. Now, I’m different.”

He said he’d tell others about drug court and explain the system, “I’d tell hardcore drug addicts, I’d try to help them be more far sighted. It will end in jail, institution or your death, probably death. I would talk to them about making the change. Why would you do the other? I believe people know their answers. I approach it from the standpoint, you can be the best version of yourself.”

He believes and teaches God is the answer.

Vincent said, “Believe in Christ. All the wrong you ever did is forgiven and you have a clean slate. Trust God that he doesn’t put more on your than you can take, and you can make the next right choice.”

Mike, said about his new life that he’s learned to live outside of prison, “I don’t have anybody today that I hang out with that I used to hang out with. If they don’t have a last name, I don’t hang out with them. I employ two drug court graduates. I have people I’m trying to help out.”

People in the program learn to rely on each other and the things they learn in the system.

Dimas said they seem to have a genuine desire to do good and stay clean.

Mike said, “They teach that there is a better way. I’m doing what I was supposed to be doing all along. I’m not a knight in shining armor. I’m nothing special. I’m just another man.

“Just give it a chance. I’ve been to prison twice. I said when I used last, ‘God, I’m going back to prison.”’

Drug court and God saved him from his own self-inflicted prison and the prison the state provides, Mike said.

He said, “The desire to use was gone. Just give it a chance. Drug court is grace. I was an absent deadbeat dad for eight years. I’m a dad now, I’m a step dad today. I got to coach little league baseball. All these things I threw away, I can do today. People don’t know me as a drug addict. I don’t ever want to be known for doing dope. I want to be known for what I do. I get up and go to work every day. I do my best to do the next right thing. I do my best to help someone else. I help the next person up. Praise God for that. I’m nothing without him.”

Contact Dan Pennington at (580)634-2162 or dpennington@civitasmedia.com

Saves money for the state, director says

By Dan Pennington


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