Marion County drug court graduates experience positive life changes

·5 min read

The work of helping Marion County residents overcome substance abuse and addiction continues and was celebrated last week during the most recent Marion County Common Pleas Court F.I.R.S.T. Court graduation ceremony.

Established in 2013 in Marion County Common Pleas Court, F.I.R.S.T. - commonly known as drug treatment court - stands for Focusing on Individual Recovery, Success and Treatment.

Kim Freeman and Brittany Friley are the latest graduates of F.I.R.S.T. Court. Judge Warren T. Edwards recognized them during a ceremony held last Friday at Marion First Church of the Nazarene. He told the group gathered to honor Freeman and Friley that the drug treatment court team crafts a plan for each individual who enters the program in order to meet that person's needs and give them the best chance to succeed.

"That plan is developed in conjunction with your treatment team and we spend as much time talking about you before we talk with you so that we're headed to a certain place," Judge Edwards said. "And that destination is a known one and it's the one that statistics say can be achieved. And we have proof of that here today. We have two graduates who have made that change. They've taken our classes. They've taken our programs. All of those things are wonderful and all of the tools are there, but this accomplishment, despite all of our efforts, really rests on them.

"And I think the two graduates today really embody that. There was a change in each of them. It was an attitude change. You could see it. There was a clear attitude change from both of these women and by changing their attitudes, they've changed their lives and that's why they're here graduating today."

Freeman, who has been sober for 15 consecutive months, said being a positive example to her two children and her family is part of what motivated her to complete the program and remain sober and on the right side of the law.

"My life has completely changed since I first entered drug court two years ago," Freeman told the group of family, friends, and fellow drug court participants who gathered for the graduation ceremony last Friday. "I was trying to cheat the system anyway I could. I was doing whatever I could to still use. I didn't care about myself, my son, or my family. I thought the drug court people was just out to get me and they didn't care. I soon realized I couldn't cheat the system without consequences. I was in and out of jail constantly until Judge Edwards ordered me to go to Recovery Works."

Freeman said her experience at Recovery Works helped her understand that the F.I.R.S.T. Court team does indeed care about each individual who enters the program and contributed to the positive change that has occurred in her life.

Friley was unable to attend the graduation ceremony. Judge Edwards said she's been sober for nine consecutive months and has been an encouragement to others in the program.

Crawford-Marion ADAMH Executive Director Brad DeCamp served as the keynote speaker for the drug treatment court graduation ceremony. He said the program saves lives and creates positive opportunities for the participants.

"As the graduates, you are living proof that treatment works and people do recover," DeCamp said. "I would encourage you to continue to use the recovery tools you've been taught, being mindful of people, places, and things that are life stressers. I would also encourage you to reach out to those who have supported you throughout this journey. Recovery is a lifelong process and it's going to be different for each individual with his or her family and it will be important to have continued support along the way. It comes in many dimensions and is a very personal journey and I wish you all continued success in your respective journeys."

DeCamp noted that not only does drug treatment court provide life-saving education and services for the participants, it also has proven to be cost-effective for taxpayers in local areas where the courts are in operation.

"There is a multi-site study that was done about 11 years ago now (by the National Institute of Justice) and it began to look at how much do drug courts really save the local (court) system," DeCamp stated. "This study has a range of anywhere from $5,700 to $6,200 per person in terms of dollars saved. Now there's some limitations with this study, but one of the things we can say is it could vary by location in terms of what those (limitations) are, but $5,700 to $6,200 is a significant amount of money, regardless of how you look at it. So, to that end, this program that's being provided is saving the taxpayers money and also providing good outcomes."

The drug treatment court concept was conceived in 1989 in Miami, Florida. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), there are approximately 135 active drug treatment courts in Ohio and more than 4,000 nationwide. NADCP statistics show that drug treatment courts reduce recidivism by 60%. Drug treatment courts serve around 150,000 people annually and have served approximately 1.5 million people since the inception of the concept in 1989.

Email: ecarter@gannett.com | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Marion County drug court graduates experience positive life changes