Declaring that “tomorrow is the day that you have worked so hard to earn,” Hillsboro Municipal Court Judge David McKenna gave recognition and encouragement Wednesday to 19 men and women of all ages who graduated from his court’s treatment program.
“It’s a lifestyle you get trapped into, and you don’t have to live that way,” he said at the beginning of the first of three ceremonies.
Three separate recognition ceremonies were held at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to avoid crowding in the courtroom, and to comply with social distancing mandates in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m especially proud of all you for doing this in 2020, because this has been the year from hell for everybody,” McKenna said. “You’ve had more on your plate than most of us, and you had to stay on course while the rest of the world was going crazy.”
In previous graduations, graduates were treated to a full-course chicken dinner at the close of the proceedings, but since the pandemic precluded doing that, each graduate received a $20 gift certificate to Pondersosa, a certificate of achievement and a wrist watch of their choice.
The significance of the timepiece was important to McKenna.
“We’ve been giving these watches out from the beginning of the program,” he said. “We give them to acknowledge the time these people have gotten back in their lives, because their years in addiction were frankly lost time, and it’s a reminder to them there is a future if they stay healthy and away from the craziness of drug addiction.”
Tonya Sturgill of the Highland County Probation Department said the program began in October 2015.
“We were in the middle of a terrible heroin epidemic,” Sturgill recalled. “We were losing people weekly to overdoses and we needed to do something different.”
She said her office was able to secure grant funding to work directly in the jail and with the court to, in her words, “triage those into a treatment program that was most appropriate for them.”
“We have had well over a hundred people in the last five years,” she said, “and we’re playing a small part in changing someone’s life.”
Jeremy Boyd of Hillsboro was one of those whose life changed in the first group Tuesday morning. He told The Times-Gazette his drug problem began at the age of 14 by smoking marijuana, and then upping the stakes by using heroin and meth.
“My path to recovery began back in 2016, but I really didn’t know that life on this side of the fence could exist until about two years ago,” he said.
He credited his sister, who has been “clean and sober” for two years, with helping him put his life back on track, adding that “when I saw her get clean, it made me want to get clean myself.”
“She got me into a treatment program, Full Circle in Dayton,” he said. “I did a six-month program there, and it made me change my attitude about things and who I hung out with, and when I began applying my recovery to my life, that’s when things started to change.”
Boyd has an eye to the future on two fronts — first of all holding down a full-time job in maintenance at Fountain Head Apartments in Dayton with the possibility getting a degree in business, and becoming a new father at any moment.
His girlfriend, Tiffany Bales, stood with him at Tuesday’s ceremony, pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl.
“It’s been a blessing to watch him grow the way he has,” she said with tears in her eyes. “He went from this scared, closed off person doing drugs all the time, to going to work every day, busting his butt, making sure that me and these babies are taken care of.”
She said she is in recovery as well, but intends to stand by him so they can help each other in the days and months ahead.
The other success stories that came through the doors of the Hillsboro Municipal Court treatment program Tuesday were Heather Snider, Chad Hibbs, Tom Williams, Sidney Merrick, Chad Thatcher, Jamie Shepherd, Mallie Bowman, William Penix, Nick Hauptman, Melissa Brunner, Chadwick Price, Joshua Yost, Shawn Yoakum, Cassie Bowser, Thomas Hatfield, Stacy Royster, April Taylor and Robbie McLaughlin.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.