Juvenile Drug Court to conduct 32nd graduation

"It's not supposed to be like this," she thought. "How did I get here?" She tightened the belt around her upper arm and the rush of anticipation flooded her senses. "Vicodin, that's how I got here," she resigned. She found her savaged vein and penetrated the needle into her tender skin.

White, middle class, 16 year-old, Aimee (not her actual name) was a heroin addict, shooting up three times a day. No one, at first glance, would suspect that Aimee, a typical Oakland County teen was abusing smack.

Stealing, lying, failing in school, and fighting with her parents, now all part of her life, living from high-to-high. At age 13, Aimee started drinking and using prescription drugs. Things quickly escalated beyond her control.

As do many addicts, Aimee became involved with the criminal justice system; being charged with one count of delivery/manufacture less than 50 grams of a narcotic by the Oakland County Sheriff Department in April of 2008. She was quickly identified as a candidate for the Family Focused Juvenile Drug Court and began the program in August of 2008.

After more than a year of involvement with the Juvenile Drug Court, Aimee, now 17, has been more than 10 months clean, has healed relationships with her family, completed her GED and is planning on entering college in January.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m., the Oakland County Family-Focused Juvenile Drug Court will conduct its 32nd graduation since its inception June 2001. The 95th and 96th graduates (one being Aimee) and their families will be honored with a ceremony and reception.

Titled OPTIONS - The Power to Choose, this program began with five participants and has served more than 326 youth and family members to date.

OPTIONS is a four-phase intervention program for repeat, non-violent, juvenile offenders who find it difficult to maintain sobriety. The program's key elements are: treating the entire family, very close judicial and community supervision, intense substance-abuse treatment, frequent substance abuse testing and a long-term commitment to program requirements. Parent involvement is a key program component in the programming.

Aimee noted recently that if not for the Juvenile Drug Court she felt that she would be dead or incarcerated. She indicated that she now, "...can see all the negatives from using and feels like it's a waste of time to use."

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Edward Sosnick, presiding judge of the program, adds: "Abuse of drugs by kids is a major problem in our nation where too often traditional methods have not worked. The OPTIONS model is an approach that is really changing, even saving lives. Our graduates learn that good choices result in positive consequences. We are very proud of our program and our graduates."

Published: Thu, Dec 3, 2009