8:46 PM

Family and friends gathered at the Stone County courthouse on May 21st to congratulate ten men who successfully completed the latest Drug or DWI court.

Associate circuit court Judge Alan Blankenship oversees the program which began in Stone County about 8 years ago.  During that time the program has had 87 graduates.

"It's not an easy or cheap program," said Blankenship. "It's an 18 month long program and costs participants about $1,800.  They must check in with an 800# everyday and are subjected to random drug and alcohol testing.  By the time they graduate from the program each person will have probably been tested at least 150 times."

There was "little to no treatment" available in Stone County to those truly seeking help when the program was implemented in September of 2004, according to Blankenship. 

Prosecutor Matt Selby says, "The drug court team is made up of a team from the court, the prosecutor's office, probation and parole, law enforcement, a treatment team and counselors from Larry Simmering Recovery Center and Alliance Counseling."

Not everyone who applies to the program or who looks good on paper is accepted in to the program.  Blankenship says 90% of graduates go on to never be charged with a crime again.

One of the graduates, Steve H., remarked "If it was easy, it wouldn't mean anything to you."

The following is a list of the graduates:
  1. Craig L.       - Drug Court
  2. Jason F.       - DWI Court
  3. Sonny J.      - DWI Court
  4. Brian P.       -DWI Court 
  5. Kenneth B.  -Drug Court
  6. Jeff J.          -Drug Court
  7. Steve H.      -DWI Court
  8. Frank C.      -Drug Court
  9. Nick T.        -Drug Court
  10. James N.      -DWI Court
Another graduate, Frank C., said "I had to surrender, it was a new beginning.  To be accountable is good....to learn how to be accountable to myself is even better."

Graduates are encouraged to attend activities that are sponsored by a thriving alumni association and to encourage those that are still participating in the program. 

"Sobriety means everything to me today," said graduate James N.  "I do it for me not anyone else.....I come first now."