By Alex Haglund
There is a new program currently being introduced in Washington and Perry Counties which seeks to help those with drug addictions to help turn their lives around – if they want to.
Judge Dan Emge spoke to the Washington County Board at their February meeting and described the new program as a very intensive probation program, saying, “This is going to be very similar to a drug court program.”
This initiative is called the Pathway to Recovery program and it is paid for with federal grant money through Adult Redeploy Illinois.
“It’s a program for people who are charged with non-violent, felony crimes,” Emge said. “It’s only for people who voluntarily want to be involved in it.”
Essentially, an addict would need to enter a guilty plea to their felony charge to enter the program. Once they do, their sentencing would then be deferred and the program, “lasts for a minimum of one year,” said Emge.
“If they are successful, then their case will be dismissed without a conviction being entered,” Emge continued. If they are not successful, or if they choose to withdraw from the program at any time, then their sentencing would proceed as normal.
The program would require intensive monitoring by a probation officer, frequent drug testing, counseling, and participation in a 12-step program.
Related Note: there is now a regular Narcotics Anonymous meeting being held every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Education Center at Washington County Hospital. Enter through the Emergency Room doors before proceeding downstairs. Call (618) 322-3178 for more information.
Towards the end of the program, participants would also be required to hold down a job.
“If you make these requirements of these people without that intensive supervision,” Emge stated, “then they typically aren’t going to be able to succeed.”
The supervision required to make this work would in fact be so intensive that Emge said that the plan is to employ a probation officer just to oversee this program. With that person in place, Emge stated that the program would have a capacity of about 30 people for the two counties.
Currently, supervision duties are being split between Washington County Probation Officer Maggie Bradac and a Perry County Probation Officer.
Emge said that the program’s first offender was enrolled in Perry County and that at the there were offenders in Washington County who were being assessed for entry into the program.
Even with all of the requirements, and all of the supervision, the program still will not be easy.
“This program will be better for the addicts that want to change their lives,” said Emge. For many offenders though, “it’s just going to be easier to sit in D.O.C. (Department Of Corrections, prison) for a year or two.”