Sixteen graduates of Ocean County’s Drug Court get a second chance at life as the program celebrates its tenth year within the County.

The graduation took place at the Ocean County Library Toms River Branch Thursday, and hundreds of current Drug Court participants, past graduates, and the relieved and excited members anxiously waiting to receive their diploma filled Mancini Hall.

Drug Court Coordinator Carole Haines says it’s a far cry from the program ten years ago when there would only be two or three participants.

Drug Court is a rigorous program which a select amount of non violent members can apply for, and if accepted, must go through a rigorous multi-year treatment process attending rehabilitation, strict supervision from a parole officer, and pays back all fines as well as secures steady employment, advance their education, or generally fulfill all responsibilities. It started out in New Jersey as a pilot program in select counties, but has since been expanded to a full program available in every county.

The average graduate maintains has maintained employment for 33 months and 35% percent have improved their education or vocational skills. Meanwhile, $ 508,013.00 has been paid in fines.

Since its inception in 2002, Ocean County Drug Court has had 763 graduates come through and currently there are roughly three hundred members within the program. Ocean County Drug Court Judge Ronald Hoffman says the program’s numbers speak for themselves. He cites that Non Drug Court offenders have a 52% recidivism rate for property offenses and 43% for drug offenses, while Drug Court graduates have only a 9% recidivism rate.

He adds one of the most important things is through the program is how families are able to saved though the program. Twenty two drug free babies have been born and 24 participants regained custody of their children since Drug Court’s inception in 2002.

However for the sixteen graduates who have worked through the program, it’s completion is all that matters. Graduates ranged from their early twenties who had their once promising life derailed by addition, all the way up to grandparents who’ve spent their entire life dealing with the demons of drug and alcohol.

Haines notes one of the challenges unique to Ocean County is the youth of those suffering with addiction.

“We do have a younger population that has started using drugs and alcohol at an early age. We have a lot of females unlike other counties that are using drugs and alcohol. “

Glenn Brown was one of those exiting the program with a promising future ahead of him. He recounted how drug abuse compromises his life, and even when he thought he was in control his life spiraling downwards.

Now employed with a promising job, a proud father, and devoted boyfriend, he is thankful for everything that Drug Court provided him with. Including a chance to reconnect with his family.

“The trust is there; dad can actually call me his son and feel proud about it.”

Adding that one he finally committed to what the program requires “everything in life started falling together. I’m gainfully employed I got health benefits for the first time in my life, realized sobriety is something that can happen. Just strive everyday to be a better person.”