Greater Cleveland Drug Court celebrates 25th anniversary; welcomes back graduates

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 5:09 PM EDT
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (WOIO) - The Greater Cleveland Drug Court celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday at the Holiday Inn in Independence.

Hundreds of people filled the conference center at the hotel to celebrate thousands of people getting help and recover.

Drug court began the transition of treating addiction as a criminal problem, to a public health issue.

“It has been very gratifying to participate in a kinder, gentler, approach to substance use disorder,” Honorable Lauren C. Moore, Drug Court Judge said. “Tough love, accountability, and positive reinforcement are strategies that have proven to be very impactful.”

Drug court may be offered to a felony offender charged with a fourth or fifth-degree-level possession of a controlled substance, who has only one non-violent felony conviction and is chemically-dependent.

Upon successful completion of Drug Court and payment of a supervision fee, a participant’s guilty plea is relinquished, the charge is dismissed and the case is sealed or expunged.

Almost 2,000 people have completed the program in Cuyahoga County since its start in 1998.

“Our graduates have had cases downgraded and dismissed entirely. They have created bonds with great people and have developed tools for life long sobriety,” Judge Moore said.

According to the Greater Cleveland Drug Court, the cost of treatment is about $3,000, while six months of incarceration is about $14,000.

“On this day, we celebrate the court that started it all and started at a time when many into he community were skeptical of the fact that it would work,” Judge Moore said.

During the ceremony, the Court honored Joe Brady, whoruns the non profit Unicorns and Polka Dots in honor of his daughter, Brianna, who he lost two years ago from drug use.

Brianna phased out of rehab, but tragically died before she could enter a recovery home.

“It is the legacy for the rest of my life. I want to help people in recovery because their is hope,” Brady said.

Unicorns and Polka Dots works directly with life skills resources, recovery housing networks, and peer support groups to provide access to what each person needs most.

Some of the life skills include furthering education, self-care, physical fitness, and setting goals.

Jennifer Halstead was also honored for her work with The Mom’s House. This is a sober living community of pregnant women battling opioid addiction.

“It means a lot to me personally because I am in recovery myself. So I was that woman who didn’t always do what was best for her children because I was suffering from a disease,” Halstead said.

The Mom’s House supports pregnant and postpartum women in recovery by providing them with a healthy, clean, and safe living environment for themselves and their children.