ST. COUNTY LOUIS (KMOV) – A group of men and women eager to start a new chapter in their lives have now graduated from St. Louis County Treatment Court.
The diversion program targets low-level, non-violent first-time offenders who are at risk of a prison sentence. It started in 1999 and was aimed primarily at people with drug abuse disorders. Over the years, programs for veterans, impaired driving and mental health have been added. Currently, more than 230 people are enrolled in the program, which includes a minimum of 14 months of intensive treatment. Participants undergo regular drug testing, therapy, community service and frequent court checks.
“I lost my kids, my five kids, because I was a drug user or whatever and I was about to go to jail or do drug court,” said Iysha Merritt, the one of the graduates. “I’m so excited, it feels good, I’m so proud of myself.”
Tina Wilson has been on the program for over two years and said she struggled to get sober at first.
“I struggled so hard to get clean, I couldn’t spend 24 hours together and literally to save my life,” she said. “I risked 45 years in prison.
Eventually, Wilson said she was able to stay sober, attending numerous therapy sessions and AA meetings each week. After a year of sobriety, Wilson said she relapsed eight days later.
“I’m glad it happened,” she said. “I have more program and more diligence. What I have in those six months exceeds what I had that year in my recovery.
Local nonprofit organization Living With Purpose provided the graduates with two scholarship certificates, allowing them to take advantage of GED courses, transportation, housing, and other needs as they begin their new lives.
“No one really wants to be forced into rehab,” said graduate Khalil Henry. “So going in there you’re going to try to fight tooth and nail, but once you’re in there and you kind of realize that these people are trying to help you, go for it.”
The program graduates three classes each year.
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