In 54B Drug Court, the Emphasis Is on Healthy Recovery

Thursday, April 4, 2019, 7:45 am
By: 
Noa Kuszai

With Judge Andrea Larkin looking on, Kym Thompson (above) graduated from 54B District Court's drug court program on April 2. Chief Probation Officer Amy Iseler is pictured in foreground.

The East Lansing Drug Court was implemented in 2016 due in large part to the collaborative efforts of Ingham County courts and prosecutors and a $120,000 grant award from the State Court Administrator's Office. The court, which is housed at 54B District Court on Linden Street, tries to enhance the public safety and community welfare by reducing recidivism among felony and misdemeanor drug offenders.

On Tuesday of this week, two participants - Kym Thompson and Nicole Borrego - completed the steps necessary to graduate from the program on the same day.

According to Amy Iseler, chief probation officer at 54B District Court, individuals are notified when they are eligible to graduate, but are not required to unless they feel ready.

“We have a philosophy,” Iseler said. “There’s eligibility and when you’re ready. We had one participant who is eligible and said, ‘I’m not ready yet.’ ”

This progam’s mission is accomplished through an interdisciplinary approach, which includes intensive supervision, individualized treatment and personal accountability through frequent judicial review. The 18-month (minimum) program effectively uses court and community resources to support individuals in developing a substance-free lifestyle.

“The goal is sustainable recovery,” Iseler said. “There’s an understanding, and in fact, statistics back it up, that these programs need to be longer in duration, they need to have a realization that the distal goal is recovery, and so if a person struggles to maintain their distal goal we have to accept that.

Below: Drug Court graduate Nicole Borrego reveals her personalized graduate canvas to the court. The graduate canvases are hung in the probation department to provide hope and inspiration for recovery. (City of East Lansing photo)

“Because for someone with an opioid use disorder, simply being told ‘Don’t use drugs anymore’ is unrealistic.”

Iseler emphasized that the court’s goal isn’t “to get them to the finish line. Our goal is to get them beyond the finish line.”

‘This is your program, this program is customized to you, you’re not the anomaly.’

One of Iseler’s former advisers came up with the idea for drug court. Based on past work experiences, Iseler knew that “this was an area that needed care within our treatment courts.”

“What we wanted to do was create a program to meet the housing needs, the treatment needs, the mental health, the physical health, the medications-assisted-treatment needs of our participants to say, ‘This is your program, this program is customized to you, you’re not the anomaly,’ ” Iseler explained.

According to Iseler, participants in the program clinically have to meet a diagnosis of a severe substance use disorder for opioids, stimulants or sedatives, and cannot be a violent offender.

“The criteria for entering the program is very broad and we did this on purpose,” Isler explained. “We want everybody who is eligible to have an opportunity.”

Since the start of the program, there have been five graduates and 33 participants total, 20 of whom are currently in the program. According to Iseler, they have not capped the amount of people accepted into the program.

Iseler added that she has cried tears of joy at every graduation.

“We are your people, this is a place where you can come and talk about these things,” Iseler said. “This is a safe space for you, because often, safe spaces become few and far between.”

 

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