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Graduates Are On Road To Recovery

OSWEGO, NY – A dozen people were recognized earlier this week for kicking their addictions and taking control of their lives.

Oswego County’s Treatment Court Program has been in existence since August 1999.  The program is structured to give non-violent offenders who have a history of substance abuse the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Those who are accepted into the treatment court program receive intensive supervision and monitoring by the court and are required to complete addiction treatment programs.

“People are realizing that the program works; that we can help people. I think that’s a testament to our system,” David Guyer, administrator, told Oswego County Today prior to the start of the ceremony. One of the graduates hails from Onondaga County, he said, adding that making that journey shows how serious they are about succeeding.

The graduates were recognized in a ceremony held at the Oswego County Courthouse on East Oneida Street.

“These people worked very hard to get where they are today,” Guyer said. “They did an outstanding job.”

Guyer welcomed the large crowd of supporters including family and friends.

Oswego City Court Judge James Metcalf oversees the Drug Court.

He congratulated the new graduates on their hard work and dedication.

The judge also recognized the local treatment providers for all they do to ensure the program is a success.

“Without them, this program would be very tough to do,” he said.

He told of how each of the graduates proceeded through the program. There were some rough spots now and then, but everyone worked hard to succeed. Some even volunteered to do community service outside of the program, he added.

“I’m very proud of all of you,” he said.

Judge Spencer Ludington, Surrogate Court, also assisted with the program.

“You all worked very hard. Congratulations. I wish you all the very best of luck,” he said.

John Baker, a recent graduate of the program shared his story with the new graduates and crowd.

Jail and prison seemed to be his future due to drugs and alcohol, he said. It was embarrassing to be sitting in jail as a teenager, he admitted

“And now three years later, I’ve proved that I can be an adult and be responsible,” he said. “This program works. I made it and so can anybody else.”

New graduate Shelia Carrasquillo said the program gave her a chance to get her life back, “That’s a big deal.”

“If anyone gets the chance to be a part of this, they should take it. This program is designed in your favor. The staff wants you to succeed,” she said. “While I have completed this program, my journey has just begun.”

“This is a special day for me,” another new graduate said following the ceremony. “I’ve got my life back and it feels great!”

On average, each of the graduates could have been sentenced to at least two years in state prison. The cost savings to the state for not having to incarcerate them is more than $2 million.

“Congratulations to all our graduates. Some of you were here for a long time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Don’t lose hope, keep up the good work; some people fly through others may take a couple of years,” Guyer said. “These people have maintained jobs; we’ve had people get their GEDs while in Drug Court. We’re very pleased with what this group has accomplished as a whole.”

At the start, “Drug Court” was a new concept for judges, something different than just throwing people in jail.

Oswego County’s Drug Treatment Court is structured to give non-violent offenders, 16 and older, 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.

It requires weekly meetings with the judge, who closely monitors the participants’ progress.

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.

The program isn’t a “get out of jail free card,” Guyer said. Several, over the years, have been dropped from the program, many of whom have gone to prison, he added.

For more information, contact Guyer at 349-8716.