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May 23, 2014

County Drug Court to graduate five despite funding concerns statewide

DUNCAN — On June 27, Stephens County Drug Court will graduate five people, which is the most people to graduate the program at one time. The two-year program hopes to get more people to their graduation days.

Drug Court programs across the state may be facing elimination as funding sources run dry. However, the Stephens County Drug Court will receive financial support from the Stephens County commissioners to continue improving the lives of reforming addicts and their families.

“That funding has to come from somewhere,” Stephens County Drug Court director Sharon Cain said. “The bigger counties will be alright. It’s mostly effecting rural counties. Larger counties are getting operational moneys.”

At any given time, Stephens County Drug Court has 40 to 45 people enrolled in the program. Although not everyone finds success with the program, Cain is proud of the program’s 70 percent success rate.

If the county program does not maintain its necessary funding, it will shut down. The contracts of those in the program will be honored as a probation period as opposed to having them enrolled in the program, which Cain fears would have much less success. No one else would be admitted into the program and instead would face jail time instead of entering the program.

Cain has been with the program since its inception in Stephens County. The program began in late 2004, but the first participants didn’t come around until February 2005. After nine years and more than 200 graduates, Cain hopes the program will keep running, despite the fear of fund shortfalls across the state.

“This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” she said about the program. “It has helped clear the court dockets. Probation and parole boards, it has taken the weight off them.”

Participants can either enter the program and get their lives back on track or they can go to prison.

When they enroll in the program, they write what sentence they will receive if they drop out, are kicked out or fail Drug Court. Cain said this drives home the importance of rehabilitation initially.

Each participant remains in the program for two years before they graduate. During their time in the program, they perform community service (including upkeep at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center to working at Goodwill) and work to turn their lives around, from finding employment to kicking their habits.

In the nine years Cain has headed the program, she has seen numerous changes. There has been a significant change from methamphetamine users in the program to people who abuse prescription drugs.

“We get people from all walks of life,” she said. “Everybody is affected by drugs in some way.”

The program has received support from across the county, from the Stephens County District Attorney’s Office to local health organizations such as Duncan Regional Hospital and Urgent Med.

Cain said she enjoys the program and hopes to be around for a while. She wants to see the program continue because of its positive impact on the participants and the community.

This is why the funding from the commissioners is so important, she said.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the commissioners,” Cain said.  “The commissioners are being proactive on this issue. It’s a big deal to me.

“The reason it’s worked is the way we’ve approached it. You develop a respect for each other.”

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Duncan Vice Mayor Mike Nelson talks during Wednesday's Duncan Rotary meeting.

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