Drug Court Successes Spotlighted In Lexington On Wednesday
This week marks the 10 year anniversary of Mid Nebraska Drug Court in Dawson County. In honor of this occasion Judge James Doyle invited several distinguished guests to the Dawson County Courthouse to discuss the successes of this program.
Included were, Judge James Doyle IV, Nebraska Supreme Court Justices Michael Heavican and Justice William Cassel, Nebraska State Probation Administrator Ellen Brokofsky, Region II Human Services Administrator Kathy Seacrest along with several members of her staff, Unicameral Senator Matt Williams, Drug Court Coordinator, Steve Garcia and Brooke Weeder, Mid Nebraska Drug Court’s First Graduate.
Drug Court is a specially designed court calendar or docket, the purposes of which are to achieve a reduction in recidivism and substance abuse among nonviolent substance abusing offenders and to increase the offender’s likelihood of successful rehabilitation through early, continuous, and intense judicially supervised treatment, mandatory periodic drug testing, community supervision, and use of appropriate sanctions and other rehabilitation services (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2005).
Judge James Doyle IV spoke about how the Drug Court was established and shared that in the decade since Drug Court first came to be there have been 80 people graduate from the program. He also said that there are 80 participants going through currently and that he expects each to graduate the program. He also discussed the roles each of the guests played in the development of this program. Judge Doyle serves in the 11th Judicial District of Nebraska as one of four District Court Judges. He also serves as the Chairperson for Problem Solving Courts in Nebraska.
In 2006 he approached the state Community Corrections Council for financial assistance to start a drug court in Dawson County, the Council approved his request and so it began.
Chief Justice Michael Heavican said, “Judge Doyle has been persistent in making sure there is accountability in specialty courts.” He also said that Doyle, “constantly performs at a level where people come out successfully.” Heavican also spoke about how drug court came to fruition. He said that when the decision was made that no more prisons would be built in Nebraska people had to get together and decide how to proceed. He said that Ellen Brokofsky, Administrator for the State Probation Department, “pioneered community corrections.” Brokofsky has continued to work through the Probation Office and its staff to provide constant services for the people they serve.
Kathy Seacrest, Region II Human Services Administrator said, “Ten years ago when we first sat down to discuss this we didn’t agree on much.” But expressed as people began working together to provide the necessary services for the participants to be successful it all came together. She also said that the work and care given by her staff to the participants goes, “way above and beyond what is expected of them.” Region II Human Services provides much of the counseling and cognitive therapies the drug court participants rely on for success in the program and throughout their lives in recovery.
Unicameral Senator Matt Williams of Gothenburg introduced LB 919 to the Legislature. LB 919 expanded funding for services to the drug court participants. Williams said that he views the people who serve drug court participants as their ‘wing men’. Expressing that the efforts of the staff who work with the drug court participants is instrumental in the success of the program.
At the conclusion of his remarks Chief Justice Michael Heavican and Judge James Doyle presented Williams with a very special “Friend Of The Court Award” for his work in providing the Legislation that allowed services to be expanded for drug court and other problem solving courts.
In August of 2006 Brooke Weeder entered the Mid Nebraska Drug Court program after she received a possession of methamphetamine charge. She said, “I came from a good family with hard working parents.” She went on to say that she began smoking cigarettes at 14 years old and believes this was a ‘gateway’ drug for her. The cigarette smoking led to smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol and on to using methamphetamine. She said in the beginning of using methamphetamine it was “my elixir.” She said that she was able to work hard and loose weight. But as her dependence of methamphetamine increased things in her life started falling apart until she was eventually charged with possession of methamphetamine. “That was the darkest month of my life, I wanted to die.” She was 20 years old.
Weeder reluctantly followed the advise of her Probation Officer, Maria Easterday, to complete drug treatment and then enter the Mid Nebraska Drug Court program, which at that time was just beginning. Weeder said, “ People believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself , Judge Doyle, Steve Garcia and my parents believed in me.” After spending 18 months in the program Brooke became the first successful drug court graduate. Now, 10 years later, she helps other participants in the drug court program, she said, “I have become a successful member of society and that would not have been possible without drug court."