Kane County drug court draws national attention

Alicia Fabbre
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Updated 4/4/2014 5:36 PM
Editor's note: This story originally ran on Oct. 5, 2002 as part of the Daily Herald's "Hidden Scourge: Heroin in the Suburbs" series.

The national agency that warns us of the dangers of drugs on TV is interested in sending out a new message.

In addition to telling us what drugs will do to us, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America soon may be encouraging us to help those using drugs to get the treatment they need.

And Kane County may play a part in that.

Officials from the national group attended Thursday's first-ever Kane County drug court graduation and spent Friday morning talking to drug court participants and parents.

While it's not certain if the stories from drug court ever will make it on a national TV spot, the stories left a definite mark on those who visited the program.

"We don't know how this will all pan out," said Michael Townsend, chief marketing officer for the group. "But there's a lot of interesting stories out here."

Townsend noted that the partnership wants to find a way to empower parents, friends and others to help others using drugs and address the problem rather than trying to hide it.

"We see some good lessons in the drug court about parents who stayed in denial longer than they should have and didn't take action soon enough, allowing their children to get deeper into trouble," he said. "If there is one big lesson that came out of (the visit,) it's intervene as soon as possible."

The partnership's visit marks the second time in four months drug court has drawn national attention. In July, Drug Enforcement Administration Director Asa Hutchinson visited the drug court and described it as model program.

Educating Voices, a national drug awareness group, organized both visits.

"I feel the voices of the participants in drug court need to be heard nationally," said Judy Kreamer, president of Educating Voices.

Kane County Judge James Doyle started the drug court two years ago after a frequent defendant in his courtroom died from a drug overdose. The program, which combines treatment with enforcement, currently has more than 300 participants.

Townsend noted that the amount of community involvement in drug court was among the things that impressed him.

"It looks to me like the community as a whole is behind this and not just the parents and judicial system," Townsend said, noting that nearly 1,000 people attended the program's first graduation Thursday.

Townsend also was impressed by how much of a role enforcement played in the recovery of the people in Doyle's drug court.

Doyle offers the program to nonviolent offenders who commit crimes to get drugs. Participants are required to complete treatment, show up in court once a week and comply with drug tests three times a week.

If they complete the program, the charges that landed them in court are wiped off their records.

Those in drug court have said being arrested and landing in drug court was key to their recovery.

"Every one of them said they wish they had been arrested sooner," Townsend said. "A lot of the parents are generally reluctant to have their kids arrested. But if they do it sooner ... the better the outcome is going to be."

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