Thursday afternoon came and went for most of us in Allen County, but to a select few it marked years of hard work and dedication.
Levi Martin and Ryan Watson graduated from Drug Court, the first to successfully complete the court-mandated program. I had the privilege to sit in on the event, and let me tell you, my eyes are wide open.
Drug Court was the brainchild of former Allen County Sheriff Tom Williams, who came to District Judge Daniel Creitz to get the ball rolling. After Thrive Allen County applied for a grant to do the research, Drug Court was initiated in January.
Twice a month, those convicted of drug charges meet in the courtroom to give updates on their progress. They are required to stay clean, undergo urinary analysis and report to their counselors. Some fail, but more importantly, some succeed.
Martin and Watson are two of those success stories.
I wrote a story several months ago about the program, the headline said it shows the “softer side” of the court system. I think “human side” may have been more accurate. Judge Creitz initiated applause anytime someone showed even the slightest bit of progress, and showed utter disappointment for those who had slipped up in the program.
It’s a difficult mix of emotions to watch people give their testimony. You see those in their darkest times, and you sometimes see the power of the human spirit. Either way, it shows just how despicably powerful drug addiction can be, in particular, with methamphetamines.
My dad used to tell me that he knew a police officer who investigated drug crimes. He would tell my father that he’d heard of people beating meth addiction, but “he has yet to see one.”
Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Not according to the 31st District Court of Allen County. Thursday’s ceremony proved that.
“I used to think addiction is something I could get rid of,” Watson said during his graduation speech. “I make a conscious effort every day to not use.”
But here’s the important part: “It means the world to me that addicts are being given a chance.”
That hit me hard. It’s so easy to look down on people who use drugs, it’s so easy to write them off. But people like Judge Creitz, Tom Williams, and Chief Court Services Officer Phil Young have proved that does nothing to help them, or society.
They have taken these people under their wing. True, many are not successful in combatting drugs. But it’s the few that are that matters. If only we could have the compassion and care that the people involved in Drug Court do; trust me, the world would be a much better place.
My eyes began to tear up when I saw Levi Martin’s two young children walk through the door with his wife, after he had received his graduation diploma to standing applause. These people can beat addiction, as these two young individuals proved. Any help we can give makes a difference.
Young told the Drug Court participants, “you don’t have to be who you’ve been.”
For those of us not afflicted with drug addiction, we can learn something from this program. We need to be brave enough to ask the question that Judge Creitz asks every participant when they enter the program.
“What can we do for you?”
— Steven Schwartz
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