It was a very special day at the new Logan County Commission headquarters when Senator Art Kirkendoll and some special guests came back to Logan to say congratulations to four people for turning their lives around Friday.
Kirkendoll was joined by Mike Browning, who represented W.V Senator Joe Manchin, Robbie Queen, who represented U.S. Congressman Nick Rahall and Jenna Jeffery who represented U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller in congratulating the graduates for their hard work and perseverance.
As Logan County Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant noted, the Logan County Drug Court and Day Report programs would not be possible were it not for help from West Virginia’s Washington coalition. Browning, a former editor for the Logan Banner, said he was always glad to be back in Logan on behalf of Sen. Manchin and that he was especially pleased with the progress shown by people in the Drug Court programs.
The new County Commission facility was packed for this year’s Logan County Drug Court graduation which saw two adults and two juveniles successfully complete their long term treatment and rehabilitative programs. Those present included caseworkers, therapists, probation officers and staff members along with drug court clients from both the Adult Drug Court program and the Juvenile Drug Court program in Logan County.
Queen read a letter of thanks from Rahall who noted that the Drug Court programs in West Virginia have proven to be a model approach to treating the drug epidemic that has struck families across the state and nation. Jeffery read a letter from Rockefeller saying the candidates for drug court were to be congratulated for their hard work and that their families were also to be thanked for showing support for their loved ones to change their lives. Browning said Manchin sent his thanks to the candidates who were working hard and the staff members and court officers who were helping them rebuild their lives by getting them off drugs and back into the world as sober, hard working citizens.
“Most of the funding for our drug court programs comes from the federal government,” Judge O’Briant noted. “We could not do this without federal assistance.”
O’Briant introduced Kirkendoll who discussed the origins of the Logan Drug Court and Day Report programs.
Kirkendoll said that the programs had created a vision for people to change for the better and that they came about at a time when alternative treatment programs were limited at best and the old system did not seem to be helping people with substance abuse problems who were caught up in the criminal justice system to get clean and sober and back on track with their lives. Kirkendoll said that in order to deal with the drug related crime problem it was necessary to approach people with addiction problems in a different way. He and others at the Logan County Courthouse from probation officials to judges and attorneys traveled and looked at different approaches to that problem and brought them back to Logan to see if they would work.
“If you want to see your neighbor, or your community get better, you have to get personally involved,” Kirkendoll said. “You have to take these problems personally and you have to work to make things better….I implore you to realize that you have to want to do better.”
Kirkendoll said that by wanting a better life and by being willing to do the hard work the programs require a person can make a better life for themselves and their families.
“We see too many people…Too many kids who have overdosed and are dead,” he added. “When I see these graduates it tells me that the hard work and effort and expense are worth it.”
Kirkendoll also thanked judges O’Briant and Roger Perry for championing the programs and putting much time and effort into their successes. He urged other clients present that day to become success stories as well.
Mike Lacey with the West Virginia Department of Probation discussed the origins of Drug Courts in Southern West Virginia noting that it started first with a Juvenile Drug Court program in Cabell County, followed by programs in Wayne and Logan Counties. Lacey said there are currently 29 Adult and Juvenile Drug Court programs in the Mountain State and that there will be more to come in the next year.
“When you look at the statistics for people who have gone through the drug court programs, compared to people who have not, the numbers of people who have been successful thanks to these programs and who have avoided recidivism really stands out,” Lacey said.
According to studies 60-80 percent of unsupervised drug offenders commit a new crime after being released from incarceration. Without supervision, 60-80 percent also drops out of treatment programs prematurely. However, in a national study of more than 2,000 graduates from over 90 Drug Courts, the average recidivism rate was only 16 percent in the first year after leaving the program. Drug Courts are six times more likely to keep offenders in treatment long enough for them to get better.