WILKES-BARRE — Fourteen people officially started new lives Friday as the latest graduates of Luzerne County Treatment Court.
“What the 14 of you have accomplished is outstanding,” state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski told the graduates during a ceremony in a county courtroom. “Today is a new day, as is every day.”
Created in 2006, Treatment Court — also referred to as drug court — is for adults charged with non-violent criminal offenses linked to drug or alcohol addiction. To avoid jail time, participants must spend a year or more proving they can stay drug-free, complete intense drug treatment and become responsible citizens. Charges are dismissed upon graduation.
Treatment Court Coordinator Kelly Cesari said part of the program was 25 hours of community service for each graduate, as well as other projects and presentations.
Cesari said Judge Joseph F. Sklarosky Jr. helped lead the program, and he was supposed to lead the dismissal of the charges. But he couldn’t be in attendance Friday.
So, Judge Michael T. Vough stepped into Sklarosky’s role.
“You’ve taken the first step,” Vough told the graduates. “And now you’re changing your life.”
Pashinski, a Democratic lawmaker from Wilkes-Barre, spoke to the graduates about their commitment to sobriety and making changes in their lives to help them get back on their feet.
“Raise your hand proudly,” he said.
“There is only one you. You are special.”
He encouraged the graduates to find their talents and what they’re passionate about.
“You have to believe in yourself,” he said. “You have to be willing to take the chance.”
During the ceremony, a few members of the class shared their stories of addiction, and how Treatment Court helped them get back on the straight and narrow. The county does not identify graduates without their permission.
The court has been credited with saving money on prison costs and helping addicts focus on rehabilitation.
Since its inception, Treatment Court has graduated 195 people. There are currently about 60 participants in the program, which is accredited by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In addition, Treatment Court has saved almost $7.5 million in total prison costs, averaging around $40,000 per graduate, according to information from officials. The average cost per day for a Treatment Court client is $12, compared to $94 for prison lodging, officials said.
Reach Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds