Drug court program working to save lives

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The drug court program in St. Joseph County is a resource that experts say could change lives in the community, but many people do not know about it.

John Gallagher, PhD, Professor at Indiana University School of Social Work, released a study conducted throughout a six year period on the success rate of the drug court program. Gallagher worked on the study with Raychel Minasian, MSW, and Sydney Szymanowski, BA, both Graduate Research Assistants.

Data showed that the recidivism rate dropped a total of 8%, meaning more participants proved to stay out of the criminal justice system.

“This 8% difference in recidivism rates highlights the effectiveness of the drug court, and a lower recidivism rate equates to many benefits to the county, such as cost savings by having to prosecute less criminal cases, presumably less drug use and drug-related crime in the county, and the many benefits that come from recovery,” according to the study.

The drug court program provides a chance for those struggling with addiction to seek help and stay out of jail.

“Addiction takes everything away from you,” said Honorable Jane Woodward Miller, Drug Court Judge . “You become diminished physically, emotionally, spiritually and you reach a point where you just can’t look in the mirror, I mean you just cannot look in the mirror and you’ve disappointed yourself so many times and you know you’ve disappointed so many other people,” said Judge Woodward Miller.

Honorable Jane Woodward Miller said that for many professionals involved in the program, it can be the most rewarding part within their career.

The program lasts for 18 months and requires participants to keep up with a number of tasks including attending meeting times and taking periodic drug tests.

While the program might not be easy, it is worth it, according to a recent drug court graduate.

Lorie Simmons graduated from the drug court program approximately one year ago. Now, Simmons is helping others as a Recovery Specialist at Oaklawn.

“It changed my life in such a big way that I’m honored they asked me to do this,” said Simmons.

Simmons admitted it was not always an easy path to sobriety, but the results were all worth it.

“But if I can do it, others can do it because it was a struggle you know,” said Simmons.

Gallagher is also an addiction therapist at Oaklawn and described the program as a rewarding experience.

“We see them heal emotionally where they start smiling and they start bringing joy and happiness back into their lives,” said Gallagher. “So we see truly people move from the grips of addiction to the joys and happiness of recovery.”

Upper Room, known as "Recovery Cafe" and the Mobile Opioid Response Unit are both resources also available to anyone in the community.

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