Four Wyoming County residents began a new chapter of their lives on Wednesday evening, as they became the most recent graduates of the Wyoming / Sullivan Counties Drug Treatment Court.
Judge Russell Shurtleff introduced the program with a short clip of a video taken of past graduate Ashley McLaud giving testimony before a state legislative panel about how drug court helped turn her life around.
Judge Shurtleff acknowledged McLaud in the audience and noted that drug courts not only restore families, but for every dollar spent for drug courts there is about a $3.16 saved in court costs, including restitution and fees paid back when in a normal setting that is often unlikely.
Sandy Vieczorek, whose family helps to underwrite the costs of the dinner and graduation each time it’s held noted the evening was a bittersweet one for her.
“Our sponsorship comes because we lost our son to a drug overdose,” Vieczorek said. “There was no treatment court back then, no real incentive to bring him out of the spiral he was in, except for outpatient treatments.”
“This is especially sad because his birthday was the Fourth of July, just two days away,” she said.
“But it’s so good to see people happily celebrating tonight the real successes that each of the graduates represents.”
“I often think of the things Randy missed: births, family gatherings, just ordinary things that we all take for granted. These are precious moments and I am so thrilled to see where you’ve come.”
She added, “Just having your self-respect back is a big thing that could have been lost forever if it weren’t for this program. Please treasure it for the rest of your lives.”
Recently retired adult probation supervisor Chris Ciprich gave some remarks tracing how Drug Treatment Court came into being in Wyoming and Sullivan counties.
He said it was largely because of a push made by a group that Vieczorek and like-minded friends helped create, called Wyoming County CARES.
Each of the night’s graduates- Ralph Dickinson, Harry Scott Faux, Joseph Kirshler and Robert Wiles- had an opportunity to speak to the group.
In introducing them, Judge Shurtleff used a range of adjectives, including miserable to describe one graduate and how remarkable the change today.
Kirscher noted, “If you would have told me two years ago there would be people who loved me and were true friends, I would not have believed you.”
His sponsor, Linda Mascheri, a counselor for A Better Today, noted in a word ‘Wow’ was how she described Kirsher’s progress, and what she sees with the results in an event like Wednesday evening at Triton Hose Co.
“Clients have so much anger when they first come into our office, and some of them don’t seem to see much hope,” she said, “but then something happens to many of them.”
“They teach me all kinds of amazing things about the world, so much so that I feel like I’m the lucky one,” Mascheri said.
Graduate Robert Wiles said he realized early in treatment court that ”I needed to take action and grow up.”
He apologized to his mother for letting her down but spoke of his late father as a role model hero.
He shared an incident in Meshoppen in the 1980s when his dad jumped in the water to save a person from drowning.
“That was a real hero,” Wiles said. “But, then I look out at all of you and I thank you for being heroes to support us.”
He said he especially wanted to thank the men and women of the Braintrim Baptist Church who took the responsibility of driving him to treatment court every week for the past two years.
“If It wasn’t for them I couldn’t do this program,” he said. “They have truly made me realize what I need to do in staying sober the rest of my life.”
Dick Camp spoke on behalf of Wiles and the Braintrim Church and said that one of the great things about the weekly trips, “was that we all got to know him better. It is so great to see the change that has come about.”
Judge Shurtleff said “there is no greater reward than to do what we’re doing, and I thank all of you for keeping it going.”