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Union-Snyder court program restores sobriety, graduates say

The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 17, 2012

Union-Snyder court program restores sobriety, graduates say

By Marcia Moore

LEWISBURG — Gerry Fry is rejoicing in his sobriety at 58.

“I am proof you’re never too old to make terrible decisions. I’m also proof you can always succeed in your dreams,” he said during Wednesday’s 17th Judicial District treatment court graduation.

Fry was among seven residents of Union and Snyder counties who recently completed the court-ordered treatment program they chose to attend rather than go to jail for committing nonviolent criminal offenses as a result of their addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Touting the benefits of treatment court to a packed courtroom filled with family and friends of the graduates, Senior Judge Harold F. Woelfel Jr. said the program is more effective and less costly than imprisonment. “Treatment is the way,” he said.

A total of 32 people have successfully completed the programs and more than 20,000 hours of community service. The rate of recidivism is low, with only two of the 32 graduates committing new offenses.

Brandon Kline stumbled a few times during the two years he spent in treatment and under the close scrutiny of the court, but the recently married 28-year-old said his life is fuller and happier today.

He echoed fellow graduates in crediting family members and the treatment court team, composed of counselors, probation officers and other court personnel, with helping them break the cycle of addiction and get their lives back on track.

“I don’t know where I would be today without the program,” he said, as his mother, Carol Kline, and uncle Jeffrey Wright, a Lancaster County judge, looked on.

Carol Kline said she once feared for her son as he went through a very dark period while abusing alcohol.

“I watched with pride as he graduated today,” she beamed. “I have my son back.”

Wright said the program was ideal for his nephew.

“This court gave him purpose and direction,” the judge said.

Under the federal, state and locally funded program, participants spend 12 to 18 months or more attending drug or alcohol treatment, counseling and weekly court visits, as well as mandatory community service, while remaining in their home and working regular jobs.

The 17th District drug treatment court was started in July 2008 and was the fourth in the state to receive accreditation. The DUI court was started less than two years later.

Woelfel cautioned the new group of graduates to continue working on their sobriety and take advantage of the support and other resources they now know is available.

Joyce Willard said she learned to change her behavior while receiving treatment for addiction and intends to make sobriety a priority.

“It was more important for me to go out a Saturday night than go to church Sunday morning. That has changed,” she said.

“I exit this program with gratitude for everything and everyone.”

For Fry, alcoholism kept him disconnected from loved ones and caused him to lose faith.

“I missed a lot of meaningful things in my life,” he said.

Looking out over the crowded room, Fry spotted his son, Garrett, who was wiping tears from his eyes.

“I promise to be a better friend, brother and father than I ever was,” he said.

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