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Graduates Are On Road To Recovery

OSWEGO, NY – There is help for those battling drug, alcohol and other problems.
Michael Petrilli briefly addresses his fellow drug court graduates. Looking on is David Guyer, program coordinator.
Michael Petrilli briefly addresses his fellow drug court graduates. Looking on is David Guyer, program coordinator.

You just have to want to help yourself and be honest with yourself, according to a recent graduate of the Oswego County Drug Treatment Court and Family Treatment Court program.

Three women and four men graduated from the Oswego County Drug Treatment Court program. They were recognized in a ceremony held at the Oswego City Courthouse on West Oneida Street.

“These people worked very hard to get where they are today,” said Resource Coordinator David Guyer.

The local program now has more than 150 graduates, he added.

“These seven people put together about nine years of their lives to get to this point, to graduate from drug court,” agreed Oswego City Court Judge James Metcalf who oversees the drug court.

Some people think that drug court is just “a slap on the wrist” kind of program, he said.

“Drug court is certainly not that,” he stressed. “We have enough in our community that people need this program. There’s always someone willing to take a seat here.”

The alternative to the program can be state prison – or worse, he noted.

“I’m very proud of these graduates,” Metcalf said. “They worked very hard to get here.”

Oswego County Family Court Judge David Roman, who oversees the Family Treatment Court, also congratulated the graduates.

He suggested the program take before and after photos of the participants.

From left, Oswego City Court Judge James Metcalf; David Guyer, program coordinator; Oswego County Family Court Judge David Roman; and Margo Orton, case manager, pose following the drug court graduation ceremony.
From left, Oswego City Court Judge James Metcalf; David Guyer, program coordinator; Oswego County Family Court Judge David Roman; and Margo Orton, case manager, pose following the drug court graduation ceremony.

“If you look at the before pictures and look at them now, many of them don’t even look like the same people,” he said. “Those of us who work in the field … we can see the difference. They have turned the corner; they’re starting to rebuild their lives and putting their families back together. Those are the kinds of reward we are looking for.”

There is a lot invested in the program, he said. But when you look at the graduates, you know it is a worthwhile program “and certainly worth continuing,” he added.

Judge Roman would like to see some of the graduates come back to the program from time to time – as guest speakers to motivate those still going through the process.

“We would welcome you back to future graduations. Let us know that you’re staying on that road to recovery and you’re able to do that a day at a time,” he told the graduates.

“I appreciate everyone’s help along the way,” Laura Bricker, one of the graduates, said. “I have a lot of people to thank.”

Fellow graduate Mike Myers offered some words of wisdom to the others, “Stay away from temptation.”

Also graduating were Toby Pawlewicz, Lisa Perdkis, Michael Petrilli, Robert Terry, and Mary Jean Pugh.

The seven joined more than 17,000 other graduates who have graduated drug treatment courts in the last 10 years.

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 County’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.