GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- On Friday, eight more people graduated from the Josephine County drug court, bringing the total number of grads to 416. This drug court started in 1996 and NewsWatch12's Cassidy Delamarter is digging into the impact it's had on the community.
Friday's graduates saved tax payers more than $277,000 dollars by choosing drug court instead of incarceration. The program is voluntary and lasts between 12 and 18 months. The goal is to provide high-risk drug offenders with substance abuse treatment and the support they need to recover. Treatment includes counseling, education and the development of a personal support system. Charges can be dismissed upon successful graduation.
Representative Greg Walden attended the ceremony to support the grads and remind people how serious the drug addiction epidemic is in america.
"Substance abuse is a serious issue. It is a disease," he said. "We're making progress, but we know we have a long way to go."
Doug Cleveland said it's programs like these that help fight the epidemic.
"It's a great program, it helps save lives," Cleveland said. "I've seen a lot of people that I used to run around with turn their lives around."
Cleveland graduated from the program in May. Now he uses everything he learned to be a mentor for those working towards graduation, like Janae. She said she was arrested for distributing meth and heroin in a school zone. Friday, 20 months after starting drug court, she successfully graduated.
"I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually defeated from living a majority of my life in active addiction," Janae told the crowd after her name was called at graduation. She said this program is what saved her life.
She isn't alone. In addition to helping 416 people recover from drug addiction, this drug court has saved tax payers more than $7 million dollars since 1996.
Walden said, "[The program] only works because of your commitment to take on something that's really hard in life."