Barry County Drug Court graduates largest class

Friday, November 22, 2013
Democrat photo/Kerry Hays The largest class in the Barry County Drug Court graduated Thursday, Nov. 14, in ceremonies held at Cassville's Crowder College Community Room. These 11 individuals have worked on several personal issues and set attainable goals over the weeks and months they have been attending Drug Court. Much of the work was mandatory and Judge Victor Head lauded their efforts.

Nearly 200 people gathered at Crowder College last Thursday afternoon to witness the graduation of eleven individuals from the Barry County Drug Court program. This was the largest graduating class for a program that has reached almost 100 people since its inception in Barry County.

"They have all worked hard," said Victor Head, associate circuit judge for Barry County and judge for the program. "This has not been an easy program and they will be the first to tell you that. They have put in their time and this is a happy occasion. It's a time to celebrate. What they're really celebrating is their future -- that this is a new beginning and a new life, a life free from drugs and alcohol."

Each of the 11 individuals that were recognized had committed a felony. Attendance and participation in the drug court was offered as an alternative to incarceration.

"Rather than sending these folks to prison, where they were all headed to, they get an opportunity to go through our rigorous treatment program," said Johnny Cox, prosecuting attorney for Barry County. "They're more intensely supervised during their probation. They are drug tested randomly and regularly. They must attend treatment and attend self-help groups. They're also required to perform community service and pay for a portion of the cost of the program."

Cox sees this program as a tremendous savings to the taxpayers. He doesn't recall a single individual who has returned since the program started in 2008.

"To take somebody that was headed toward prison and is an abuser or addict and divert them from prison into basically a taxpaying law abiding citizen again is huge," said Cox.

Judge Head moderated Friday's ceremony, and his brother Heno Head, Jr. treated graduates to an enlightening presentation. One of his many props included a bottle labeled "success" where he illustrated how to get a seemingly impossible egg into the bottle. The demonstration was used as a metaphor for the graduates in their life's journey.

Team members of the drug court were also given an opportunity to address the program graduates during the ceremony. Cassville Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr presented each of the participants with a copy of "The Traveler's Gift" -- a book about attitudes in a positive way, according to Kammerlohr.

"We had some bumps, we've had some success, and now we have victory," said Kammerlohr.

Earl Best is another team member who addressed those assembled with words for the graduates.

"The people that you were when you came in are gone," said Best. "You're somebody else now. What you do with that is up to you. I think there are times to celebrate and rejoice and I think back on my graduation from college. When I woke up the next day, there wasn't anybody there clapping or cheering and reality set in."

Each of the participants were presented with a plaque and gift card. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Judge Head praised the graduates and offered additional words of advice.

"You've worked hard, you deserve this, it is a time to celebrate, said Head. "It's a new life, a new day, and a new beginning, and you're just starting."

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