On March 12, 2018, Brian Ward became the 200th successful graduate of Washington County’s award winning Drug Court program. Ward, who entered Drug Court almost three years ago, will leave the criminal justice system clean and sober and ready to make a new start.

During the graduation Judge Beth Roberts congratulated Ward on succeeding in treatment and described watching his transformation into someone who supports and helps others as husband, father and Drug Court participant. She presented him with the ceremonial Drug Court key to his future before an audience that included his family, treatment providers, and District Attorney Bob Hermann. Ward spoke briefly to tell the crowd that during his 1050 days in the program he had finally “stopped doing everything my way and listened” to those trying to help him.

Ward shaking hands with District Attorney Bob Hermann.

Rayney Meisel, a Deputy District Attorney for over eight years, represents the District Attorney’s Office in the Washington County Drug Court Program. As part of her Drug Court responsibilities, Meisel screens possible participants for eligibility before referring them to the treatment team for evaluation. She meets with the Drug Court team every week to discuss the participants’ successes, struggles, and progress.

“Last year we had 17 people graduate from Drug Court and 14 people begin their journey,” Meisel said. “Being involved in Drug Court offers a different perspective on a job that often shows us the worst of people. I get to watch repeat offenders, who would undoubtedly continue to cycle through the system, prove that they can change their lives, and thus the entire community, for the better. I see the incredible transformations that occur when a person with the right amount of desire, grit, and determination is given the right tools and opportunities.”

Ward and supporters looking at his past mugshots.

Drug Court accepts a small number of extreme and long-term addicts who are caught in the cycle of addiction and criminal activity. The program is a collaborative effort between the DA’s office, defense attorneys, judges, treatment providers, the Department of Human Services, law enforcement and probation officers. It is a minimum of fifteen months long, and provides participants with intensive treatment and services for their addiction. They are also required to obtain gainful employment, maintain clean and sober housing, give back to their community, engage in intensive addiction and behavioral therapy, and pay their restitution debts. Drug Court focuses not just on a participant’s sobriety, but also on changing criminal attitudes and behaviors through accountability. Participants appear in front of a judge weekly to discuss their progress and attitude and to be accountable for their actions, including rewards for their successes and sanctions for non-compliance.

Drug Court is one of the county’s greatest resources for treating non-violent drug-addicted offenders. As of 2017, Drug Court participants have paid back $207,408 in restitution to crime victims. The program has saved Washington County $679,602 in jail costs and the State of Oregon $10,988,398 in prison costs.

March 13, 2018