Now in its 10th year, Warren County Drug Court is boasting a better than national average success rate, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Wright said.
Wright said since the program’s inception, 113 people have gone through the program with 45 of them graduating. There are currently 32 still enrolled in the program.
“I think it’s one of the best alternative sentencing programs out there,” Wright said. “It’s good for the community as a whole, and good for the people who graduate and change their lives.”
Theresa Strathaus, a 2006 graduate, is one example of a changed life.
Strathaus came to Warrenton years ago with just the clothes on her back. She came to escape domestic violence and drugs, but instead found a change of address didn’t change her environment.
According to Strathaus, it was drug court that saved her life.
When she first moved here, things seemed to get better. She found a job, a place to live, and was reunited with her four children.
Then things started to fall apart.
“I hooked up with the wrong people again,” she said. “My first charge was with the DEA for buying pills. Then I got possession and manufacturing (of methamphetamine) charges. I think I got arrested three times.”
Strathaus said she hit rock bottom when she was arrested at the courthouse on a warrant while there on another charge.
“I was looking at 25 years (in prison),” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘My baby is 6 and would be (grown) when I get out.’ ”
Strathaus didn’t go to prison, however. The judge sent her to drug court instead.
“I’m not going to lie,” she said. “At first I always said I was going to fake it to make it. What turned that around was that my oldest daughter threatened to take my kids.”
Strathaus started the program in 2004.
“I was only the sixth person at that time to go through the program,” she said.
Strathaus, now sober 8 years, stays involved with drug court to help others. She has developed a network of supporters from her experience, including Christie Becker, the drug court’s administrator.
“She (Strathaus) goes in once a month and meets with others in the program and is on our alumni board,” Becker said. “And Theresa has only missed two graduations over the years.”
Becker said drug court participants must follow numerous guidelines through the minimum 18-month program, including attending weekly court and counseling sessions, contacting officials every morning, obeying a nightly curfew and performing a minimum 40 hours of community service.
Participants also must submit to drug tests when requested and cannot leave the county without permission.
Becker said most people, like Strathaus, come to drug court only because they don’t want to go to prison. That’s why some participants don’t complete the program.
“Until you change internally, you won’t make it,” she said. “(Sobriety) has to become an everyday habit.”