Program’s Graduates Are On Road To Recovery

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.

The program is entering its 11th year in Oswego this summer.

A recent Drug Court graduate fights back teas as she thanks those who helped her make a successful recovery.
A recent Drug Court graduate fights back tears as she thanks those who helped her make a successful recovery.

“This is our largest graduation class,” Resource Coordinator David Guyer told the 12 men and four women graduates.

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.

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.”

The graduates took different paths to graduation; in this group, a great deal of them flew through without any problems whatsoever, the judge noted.

“Overall, we have been serving more and more people. About three years ago, I would say we were down to about 40 people in our program. We now have over 90 active people, with over 20 active referrals,” Guyer pointed out, “So I definitely think the program is catching on and has become institutionalized so to speak.”

“Drug Court does pay off. It will help you, if you keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing and don’t get distracted,” graduate Will Conley said. “It’s not easy.”

He said the judge was “a great man,” “just don’t make him mad.”

“Tell the truth at all times, even if it’s not a good thing. Just tell the truth. It will always save you and make things better in the end,” he told the members of the audience who are still going through various phases of the program.

“I never thought my drug and alcohol use would lead me down the path of self destruction. But it did,” added graduate Dianne Dunn. “I isolated myself from everyone I knew. I stopped eating, I could not read or write anymore – everything I had worked for was gone.”

She said she had even become suicidal.

“But, my disease of addiction still wanted more. Why? Because I wasn’t dead yet,” she continued. “I became insane.”

Luckily, she said, the law intervened because she had criminal charged against her.

Judge Metcalf gave her a choice, rehab or jail.

“I chose rehab and that is where my recovery began. Now, every morning when I awaken, I thank God for a second chance at life. Today I can feel, think and love,” she said. “I am free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol. I no longer live in denial. I am peaceful and happy.”

Her dream of returning to college has come true and she is pursuing a career.

She thanked the hard working men and women of the police departments “who work night and day to keep people like me off the road and help them get into a recovery program.”

“My recovery will be a life-long commitment and that’s OK because a good life is the only life that I know now,” she said.

“I went to rehab. The day I went to rehab, I found out I was pregnant. I am now a single mom. I live on my own, I work. I couldn’t have down it without a second chance. And, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Jillian Peterson said as her voice cracked with emotion.

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.

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.

Besides Conley, Dunn and Peterson, the graduates included: Joe Barbera, David Bieganowski, Patricia Bubach, Michale Burgess, John McKean, Antonio Mendez, Tonya Ragonese, William Russell, Eric Staring, Thomas Sykes, Jeff Weller, Peter Woytowich and Colin Zajac.