OSWEGO, NY – There is help for those battling drug, alcohol and other problems.
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.
“This is our largest graduation class,” Resource Coordinator David Guyer told the 18 men and four women graduates. “People are realizing that the program works; that we can help people. I think that’s a testament to our system.”
They 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.”
The program’s success rate is pretty close to 60 percent, he noted.
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.
“They do the real work, along with you guys,” he told the graduates. “You know how it is. Those are the people who made the most impact on you. You do put in hard work; but, there is another side to this.”
Drug Court saves a lot of money, the judge said.
“Each person has to do 25 hours of community service, they are given more hours for sanctions, also. These graduates have probably done more than 800 hours of community service,” he said.
On average, he said, 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 $2.6 million, he added.
“These people have maintained jobs, we’ve had people get their GEDs while in Drug Court. We people are better in their families and their relationships … it just gets better and better. We’re very pleased with what this group has accomplished as a whole.”
Several of the graduates offered remarks as they accepted their diplomas. They thanked their friends and familes as well as the Drug Court members who helped them get their lives back on track.
“I learned so much about myself in this process and I do believe that a good person lies within each of us,” said Jill Familo. “My advice to those beginning the progarm would be: be honest with yourself.”
“I thought prison was going to be my future. I really did. And, I was OK with that,” said John Frank. “I needed to change but I never wanted to – until I got into this program. This is an opportunity that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”
Another graduate thanked the Drug Court program for “making me a much better person than I was before.”
Tracie Ormsby got choked up with emotion as she delivered her speech.
“Honesty is the best policy,” she said. “The flowers of tomorrow are the seeds of today. Remember, in the garden of your life don’t water the weeds.”
One graduate had a problem with perscription medicine.
“The pain and agony” of drug addiction is worse than any physical pain, she said.
“You don’t have to take drugs to get better,” she added. You can do it. You can do it. This program can help you if you want to help yourself.”
Another graduate agreed.
“It’s not easy; this program is not easy,” he said. “But it’s better than where I was going.”
Guyer congratulated the graduates. After dealing with all the negatives, it’s wonderful to celebrate the positives in the prgram, such as the graduation event, he said.
“Overall, we have been serving more and more people. A few years ago, I’d say we were down to about 40 people in our program. We now have more than 90 active people, with more referrals,” Guyer said recently. “So I definitely think the program is catching on and has become institutionalized so to speak.”
“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, Metcalf 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 following the ceremony.
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 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.
For more information, contact Guyer at 349-8716.