New drug court is changing lives
By Heather McDonald
Eight days for almost anything may not seem like a big deal, but for one Stevens Point woman it marked the biggest accomplishment of her life in recent years.
It was her longest consecutive stretch of sobriety.
“It started as a bad week, but after Thursday, it’s been good, and it’s something to build on,” Portage County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Flugaur told the woman during a recent Monday in drug court. “In fact, because this has been really big for you, I’m giving you a good job coin.”
Just five months old, Portage County’s drug court is changing people’s lives. The court opened April 3 with one participant – entrance criteria is strict and two-pronged – and currently there are 10, two of whom have graduated into phase two of five required for graduation. Other applications are continually being considered, with the hopes of reaching maximum capacity at 20 by late fall.
Participants typically each have more than five years of chronic drug addictions, with opioids and methamphetamine at the top, and all have spent time in prison. Just one participant after a couple of weeks fled the program, and hasn’t been seen or located since.
“I think it’s going well,” Flugaur said. “It’s really been a learning experience. It’s been at times trying, but most times it’s very satisfying.”
The county applied for and last year received a state grant to implement the program, which provides an alternative to incarceration for the offender’s drug-related crime. A treatment team, including participants, meets weekly; there are court attendance requirements; and participants earn “good job coins” – gray plastic discs about the size of a quarter – when they stick to the program or make significant progress. After they accumulate a certain number of coins, they may be eligible to receive incentives such as a gas card.
Significant progress for some may mean just showing up to court weekly.
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