Five men and two women were recognized Sunday for completing the New Way to Recovery Drug Court Docket program in ceremonies held at Good News Gathering in Hillsboro.
Completing the program were Casey Fleagle, Josh Yost, Katrina Hanes, Sidney Merrick and Michael Holland, all of Hillsboro; Terry Keeran of Cochocton; and Dewey Warman of Lynchburg.
Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss said that the innovative concept came into reality in April 2019 as a three-phase drug intervention program for high-risk offenders.
He told those who came to support and applaud the efforts of the seven individuals that the drug court docket was much more intensive than the typical community control programs.
“A lot of people have the impression that drug courts are for first-time offenders, people who haven’t been in a lot of trouble or have a long history,” he said. “The fact is it’s just the opposite — it’s much more intensive, in fact, in that they have to be evaluated as to risk by courts, probation departments and treatment providers.”
He told the graduates that they should be proud of how far they had come and what they had accomplished, and that all of them had overcome a long history of substance abuse and criminal behavior, and had satisfied the rigorous requirements of the drug court.
Mark Fannin, who graduated from the Clinton County Drug Court in July of last year, offered encouragement, motivation and advise to the graduates, saying that it was an honor to be asked to speak at Sunday’s ceremony.
“The only other time I was asked to speak in a court function was when they asked me ‘Mr. Fannin, how do you plead?’” he told the audience. “Before recovery, that’s how things went for me, since I was in and out of the court system, but I’m here to tell you today; there is hope.”
Fannin shared his own history of being sentenced to prison and recovery housing, admitting to abusing drugs as early as the age of 14 and continuing to use into his adult years while amassing a long list of felony convictions.
He entered the Clinton County Drug Court as a high-risk offender three years ago.
“My clean date is May 26, 2018,” he said. “You’ve got a whole community out here ready to support you in your recovery. But I will tell you, life shows up, but you don’t have to use over today or life’s ups and downs.”
His told the graduates and their families to plan for the future, emphasizing that they need to “get connected to the community,” adding that “the opposite of addiction is connection,” and that though they weren’t responsible for the disease of addiction, they were fully responsible for their recovery.
“I’m living proof that you can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use drugs, and find a new way to live,” he said. “That’s the real and powerful message of what you’ve done here today.”
Tonya Sturgill, Highland County Probation Department director of programming and clinical services, complimented each of the graduates for their individual accomplishments during the awards ceremony, describing one of them as the group’s “rock star,” since he was one of the few that didn’t go through the initial residential treatment program and showed great determination at traveling the road before him.
“Terry Keeran literally walked in the rain and the snow, and he never missed an appointment for six months straight,” she said. “Whatever it took, Terry was there no matter what.”
She had high praise for the other six graduates, and briefly summed up their accomplishments:
• Holland: “Not only completed the program, but thrived and exceeded far beyond even his own expectations.”
• Merrick: “A strong, capable, independent and confident young woman.”
• Yost: “An amazing example of how we can’t let our past define our future.”
• Hanes: “A strong, fierce, independent woman, who right from the start hit the ground running and got her driver’s license back, has a management position with one of the local restaurants, has her own apartment and is taking college classes.”
• Fleagle: “He went into detox in Portsmouth and never looked back. He became an employee at the counseling center and started giving back to others in his situation.”
• Warman: “A kid who was so full of attitude and didn’t take any of this seriously, but he now works full-time and grew into an amazing young man who is going to do amazing things.”
Coss said it had been a “leap of faith” in establishing the drug court and though it was unknown at the beginning how it would work, he reaffirmed that the program was indeed working, and credited both those directly involved with it and the support of the community as the reason why it has succeeded.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.