Not long ago, there was an uproar in the community about the location of the Bryan County Drug Court. The program was being conducted at the Clay Jones Community Building in Durant and many local residents were not happy about it.
After much debate at meetings and many letters written to this paper, County Treasurer Nancy Connor graciously offered part of her offices in the courthouse to the drug court and according to Director Charlene Thomas, things have been running smoothly.
"This is the ideal place to have it," she said. "Things are going good. I think it's running better than it has ever been." Thomas was appointed director in mid-July and has been on the drug court team since 1998. She is currently working on her master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Southeastern.
As Thomas speaks about the drug court, there is a fire in her voice that makes it evident helping others with addiction is her passion."I'm actually a recovering addict," she said. "I feel that working with people and helping them recover is my calling."
Thomas graduated from a drug court in the state of Washington and relocated to Durant to live near her family. She said when she was first appointed director, it was hard getting acclimated to the job because of the controversy over the location of the drug court.
"People have misperceptions," she said, with a sad tone in her voice. "Addiction is a disease. It's chronic, progressive and lifelong. Addiction affects everything."
Thomas said it hurt for her to hear what people said about participants of the drug court. "Addiction is not a respecter of persons. It doesn't care what your last name is, or your money or your social status."
She stressed that the drug court is a place for nonviolent offenders to get help overcoming their addiction. "They have a disease and need treatment," she explained. "It's treatable and can be put in full remission."
Thomas said that while some people may argue that those using drugs should be in prison, incarceration does not treat the underlying issue. "Treating the issue is how we deal with it. You need to break the cycle, or it becomes a destructive cycle that goes on and on."
She urges people in the community to view drug court as something that is helping those struggling with addiction to "become productive members of society." "It's about saving lives. We give them the opportunity and tools, but the work is up to them. It's not an easy program - it's a very hard program," she said. "The participants work very, very hard. Hopefully, they'll make it through successfully.
"If they make it through, they have achieved a huge accomplishment."
She then added, laughing, "To make it through, you've got to get up early and eat your Wheaties, you know?"
The Bryan County Drug Court currently has 85 participants. A graduation will be held for 10 participants in January 2012.