Henrico County’s Adult Drug Treatment Court reaches a milestone Friday (5/18), with its 200th graduate. The program is more than just an alternative to jail.
It’s for formerly incarcerated drug and alcohol offenders who opted for a rigorous program of treatment and counseling set up by the courts as a better option.
“It is an intensive program,” said Gary Hughes, Director of the Community Corrections Program, “So to reach that 200 mark, knowing the services that those 200 individuals have received, knowing the lives those individuals now touch, knowing the families they now touch, I can’t say enough about being able to reach that.”
“My life before drug court was so unmanageable. I was always in and out of jail. I considered that normal,” said Brittney Welsch, a 2017 Drug Court graduate. “It was the most amazing experience in there. I never graduated prom, or even high school, but I was bound and determined I was given this chance to do good.”
Henrico established the Adult Drug Treatment Court after Circuit judges began looking for ways to break the cycle of individuals with alcohol and drug problems reappearing before the court.
“So they are individuals who are in the process of having their probation revoked…for non-compliance issues. And depending on the criteria and some of the criteria involves having no violent convictions, no drug sales convictions. But if the individuals are interested and they fit the criteria and it is deemed clinically appropriate, they may be allowed to enter, and it is a voluntary program, they have to choose to enter and then the court has to agree.”
What follows is a minimum of 12 months of counseling, treatment and supervision.
“Each week when I went up before the judge and there was no sanction I felt a little bit more pride. Every marker, 30 day, 60-day, 90-day, and then nine months clean, my self- esteem just rose. And I just have never been more proud of myself and that is a really hard thing to accomplish when you’ve been a drug addict most of our life is to be proud of something that you’ve done.”
Drug court cost the county as much as $15,000 dollars each for the treatment. But they say, a 12-month incarceration is $29,000 and then, there is the hope of a better life.
“I’ve seen it create miracles, and I always speak about that. It has offered me so much hope. And I am so blessed that I got to be in it. And, other participants, I know most of them feel the same way, too.”
Today, Brittney is working as a peer recovery specialist for Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services.
“It has given me my life back and an opportunity to be an engaging citizen, or just a contributor. I could not have imagined my life as it is today. Each day that I wake up seems more beautiful than the last, and it seems like a dream.”