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Drug Court keeps clients clean

Jewel Bell of Lexington had gotten high on drugs and alcohol for nearly 30 of her 42 years of life.

"I saw my mother drinking Boone's Farm wine and it looked like she was enjoying it, so I started drinking it, too," she said, adding that she later abused drugs and alcohol with her parents and siblings. "It was a family thing."

But that part of her life is over. She's coming up on two years of being drug- and alcohol-free, and she's planning for her wedding next year.

She credits that turnaround to the Women's Hope Center program that she attended while in jail and to Fayette Drug Court, which has kept her straight and out of prison.

"They saw things in me I didn't see in myself," Bell said. "I'm trying to live life on life's terms, and I'm doing much better."

Someone who is abusing or has abused drugs and alcohol can be found in nearly every family in America, including mine. And nearly every one of those affected families has tried but failed in redirecting the abuser to a life without the deceptive comfort of drugs.

Before that tug-of-war to reclaim a loved one or oneself becomes overwhelming and isolating, families need to know where help is available.

"No matter what, directly or indirectly, drugs and alcohol affects everybody," said Danielle Sanders-Jackson, program supervisor of Fayette Drug Court. "It's not going to go away on its own. We have to do things to help."

To celebrate 20 years since the first drug courts were established in Florida, the Fayette Drug Court program, along with several agencies in the community, will present "Recovery Jubilee: Saving Lives... A Celebration," a community resource fair.

Drug courts are for non-violent offenders whose crimes are connected to their abuse of drugs. It is an alternative sentencing program for adults who have committed crimes as a result of a drug or alcohol problem, or both.

Clients, as they are called, voluntarily submit to regular and initially frequent drug tests and receive sustained treatment during the three phases of the program to avoid prison terms. The phases are the stabilizing period, the educational period and the motivational period, a total of about 18 months of supervision.

As of Dec. 31, 2008, there were 2,301 drug courts in America. In Kentucky, drug courts operate in 115 of the state's 120 counties, providing services for about 25 percent of the cost of incarceration.

Information about Drug Court will be available at the jubilee, along with information about drug and alcohol treatment, mental-health counseling, health care, educational and employment opportunities, and other support systems.

There also will be hot dogs provided by the judges in charge of Drug Court, buns provided by caseworkers, and drinks provided by the clients.

For the clients, "it's a way for them to give back to the community," Sanders-Jackson said. "And we told them if they brought in bags of assorted chips, we'd give them curfew extensions."

An extension, she said, means the client would have a free night to stay out late. They could donate as many as five bags and get a free night for each bag. "We've got more chips than anything," she said, laughing.

The point of the jubilee, Sanders-Jackson said, is to let the public know that help is out there and accessible.

An example, she said, is the Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention. The act, inspired by the death of Matthew Casey Wethington of Covington due to a heroin overdose at age 23, became effective in Kentucky in July 2004, less than two years after his death. It gives relatives, friends and guardians a way to petition the court for involuntary treatment for a loved one who doesn't know that he or she needs treatment.

At least 30 agencies will be on hand for the free event, and various items will be given away, including dinners and haircuts, if participants visit each table.

Bell will be there, she said, doing whatever Sanders-Jackson asks and trying to help others find ways to feel as good about themselves as she feels now.

She met a man who has been in recovery for 10 years, and the couple plan to marry next year. Plus, she said, she now attends her grandchildren's sporting events and knows "what's going on." She also reads to them and has them over to spend the night. "My daughter trusts me with them," she said.

"I never want to forget where I came from," Bell said. "If I forget, I'll go back."

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