OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ It was “a life-changing experience.”
This week, six graduates of the Oswego County Drug Treatment Court Program and one from the Family Treatment Court took the next step in reclaiming their lives.
The program celebrated its 10th anniversary in Oswego last summer.
One woman and six men were recognized in a ceremony held at the Oswego City Courthouse on West Oneida Street as the program began its second decade in the Port City.
“These people worked very hard to get where they are today,” said Resource Coordinator David Guyer. “They did an outstanding job.”
They measure success by the program’s graduation rate, he explained.
Oswego CountyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Drug Treatment Court is structured to give non-violent offenders who have a history of substance abuse the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
Those who are accepted in the treatment court program receive intensive supervision and monitoring by the court and are required to complete addiction treatment programs.
Oswego City Court Judge James Metcalf oversees the drug court.
The graduates look so much healthier today than when they first came to the program, Metcalf noted.
If you asked them to describe their lives before drug court, he said, some of the words they all used were chaos and “unhealthy; unhealthy emotionally, physically and spiritually,” he said.
“We’re exploding in drug court right now,” he said. “So many more people are taking advantage of the program than ever before. We have gone from maybe 40 people in the program to up to maybe 60. Right now we’re looking at 100 or better at this point.”
Metcalf credited all the graduates with working hard to make it to graduation day.
“Some people, when they first come in, look at this as the easy way out of going to state prison; it’s just a slap on the wrist kind of program, he said. “Drug court is certainly not that. We have enough in our community that people need this program. There’s always someone willing to take a seat here.”
It’s not an easy program to go through, and people in it change their motivation from “I don’t want to go to state prison” to “I want to be in recovery,” he said.
The graduates know all the hard work is done by them, he said. “You put the time in, you put up with us demanding things of you constantly. But you have gotten to the point where you deserve recognition, you’ve completed the program. You’re ready to be good citizens and not go to state prison; which is entirely the goal of what we do here.”
The alternative to the program can be state prison Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or worse, he noted.
The graduates were also congratulated by Oswego County Family Court Judge Kim Seager.
“You guys are the models for the families and the other participants going through the program right now,” she told the grads. “They want to succeed too and you are setting the standards for them.
“I was very grateful for the opportunity to go through drug court,” said John Allen.
“I’d like to thank God for giving me the opportunity to get through what I have,” added Donald Huff. “From two years ago, my life’s changed dramatically. I’m a lot more responsible. I’m putting one foot in front of the other, not going backwards like I used to.”
“This was a life-changing experience,” said Lindsay Terramiggi. “I want to thank everyone who supported me. If you want to help yourself this is the best thing for you.”
The program is an alternative to prison for those 16 and older who have substance-abuse problems and have pleaded guilty to nonviolent crimes.
It requires weekly meetings with Metcalf, who closely monitors the participants’ progress.
Both the drug and family treatment programs require participants enroll in a substance-abuse program and attend self-help meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
They’re tested randomly for drugs up to several times a week. They also may have seven or eight meetings a week.
There are sanctions for missing a meeting or other infractions.
Drug Treatment Court began in August 1999, Guyer said. Several, over the years, have been dropped from the program, many of whom have gone to prison, he added.
Oswego CountyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Family Treatment Court was the first of its kind in the Fifth Judicial District, which encompasses Oswego, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and Onondaga counties. It began operation in May 2002.
The intensive program, which takes about a year to complete, is designed to help parents and children affected by substance abuse.
Parents are provided treatment, case management, and judicial monitoring during the course of the program.
Children are provided counseling and other necessary services.
For more information, contact Guyer at 349-8716.
Besides Allen, Huff (family court) and Terramiggi, the graduates included: Bradley Moore, Kyle Randall, Thomas Simmons and Quentin Thomas.
For more information on the program, contact: Guyer at 349-8716, or Margo Orton at 349-3448.