Two pass Drug Court

Two Island County teens celebrated the completion of their Juvenile Drug Court program with a graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Both were in the program for one year and had entered on a charge of Minor in Possession.

Drug Court is a program for juvenile offenders that offers a rehabilitative and therapeutic approach to chemically dependent offenders. The Drug Court team consists of a partnership between the treatment provider, prosecutor, defense counsel, probation and judge.

Adult offenders have had a similar option for an Adult Drug Court since March of this year.

“I don’t want to be in the paper,” said one graduate who admitted feeling shame about the choices that led him to Drug Court. “It’s embarrassing.”

Neither graduate is proud of the actions which led to having to choose to take part in the program and expressed relief in being done with it.

For the two teens successful completion of the program coincides with their graduation from high school and the prospect of putting this mistake behind them.

Now, the two graduates are looking forward to the future with plans to go on to college.

A report published in February of this year states that since March 2001, the Island County Juvenile Drug Court has had 50 participants. Of those, 25 have successfully completed the program and have had their charges dismissed.

The 50 percent drop-out rate shows successful completion of the program takes dedication and progress.

The two recent graduates had a rough time in the beginning.

“There were some bumps in the road in the beginning and we all questioned whether or not they were committed to the program,” said Channing Gredvig, Island County Juvenile Drug Court coordinator.

The inauspicious start soon smoothed out as two juveniles took a serious approach to meeting graduation requirements.

“Somewhere in the middle of the year, they decided to buckle down and comply with the court order,” said Gredvig.

If a juvenile participant fails to complete the process they are remanded to face the original charge. The year-long program is set up both to reward success and to compel compliance.

“They didn’t receive a lot of the rewards that most would have by the end of the year because we felt they needed a little less leeway, given their previous actions in Drug Court,” said Gredvig about their time in the program. “But, they did earn their graduation and I’m proud to work with them and proud of them for sticking it out.”

Gredvig feels that long-term success for the participant means sticking to the strategies employed in the program long after graduation.

The biggest challenge to long-term success is that almost all of the “after care” is in the hands of those completing the program. In an effort to identify those who fall back into bad behavior, graduates are tracked down six months, 12 months and 18 months after graduation and given a survey to gauge their drug use.

Finding the participants after they complete the program isn’t easy.

“It’s been difficult tracking folks down,” said Gredvig.

Though admitting the difficulties involved, Gredvig is still pleased at the results.

“Of the 25 who have graduated,” said Gredvig, “only two have committed new crimes or admitted to drug or alcohol use.”

Gredvig is confident of the program’s results. “In other words, Drug Court graduates have a 92 percent chance that they will not commit new crimes or continue their drug use,” she said.

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