Twenty years. That’s how long the Jackson County Drug Court in Kansas City, Missouri has been operating, one of the very first in the United States. Think about how many lives have been restored in twenty years, how many drug-free babies have been born, families repaired, and tax dollars saved in the last two decades. The sustained success of the program has not been lost on the community it serves, and they turned out in droves to celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary graduation. And of course, All Rise America! was there too.
A mom gets a hug during her graduation from the Jackson County Family Drug Court
Like many well established programs, the Jackson County Drug Court has expanded to serve additional populations. It was among the first to start a Veterans Treatment Court. On this day, nine individuals were graduating from the Family Drug Court. Family Drug Court handles cases where children have been removed from the home due to parents’ substance abuse. Rather than tear families apart, these programs help men and women confront their addictions with the goal of keeping families intact. The abundance of children at the Kansas City event was a testament to the program’s benefit to the community.
Commissioner Merrigan with a proud family on graduation day
There are 850 people in Denver’s Drug Court system – 850 mothers, sons, veterans, and neighbors who would otherwise be in jail or out on the streets if it weren’t for Drug Court. It’s one of the original Drug Courts in the country, first opening its doors in 1993. After touching tens of thousands of lives and saving millions of dollars we were happy to find that they still go all out for a graduation.
AMS executives with the All Rise Gavel
On our drive into Denver we took some time to stop in Littleton, Colorado to visit with our friends at Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS). AMS has been a longtime supporter of NADCP and their SCRAMx technology is used in Drug Courts, DWI Courts and Veterans Treatment Courts from coast to coast. We are honored to count them among our sponsors for All Rise America! and have enjoyed meeting up with their reps at various tour stops.
We had a great time touring the headquarters which included a visit to where they assemble the devices that have helped so many graduates stay sober.
All Rise America! pulled up to the Denver court to honor 24 graduates on a cold and grey afternoon. By the time we began unloading our stuff it was raining and we hustled to the courthouse covering our heads with camera bags. Inside it was bright and festive. Graduates, participants and their families, and staff milled around amongst balloons and cake. By the time things got underway about two hundred people were in attendance.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock provided remarks to the graduates. He spoke about how substance abuse affects the entire community and he thanked the graduates for their commitment to improving their lives. “This community needs you,” he told them.
Mayor Michael Hancock tells the graduates, “your community needs you.”
“Veterans Trauma Court has shown me that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. And that I still have purpose and perhaps most importantly it has given me hope. This court has saved my life, my family and my faith so for a lack of better words and from the bottom of my heart thank you.” - Colorado Springs Veterans Trauma Court Participant
Military culture is woven into the fabric of Colorado. It is home to nearly half a million veterans and several military installations. It is a state filled with families that have seen loved ones go off to war and it has borne its share of the burden in Iraq and Afghanistan. Colorado Springs has been home to an outstanding system of courts for many years, including a Drug Court, a DUI Court, and a Mental Health Court. So when increasing numbers of veterans began coming into contact with the criminal justice system in Colorado Springs, it is not surprising that the community answered the call of duty and implemented a Veterans Treatment Court.
Colorado Springs sits at the foot of Pikes Peak, a 14,000 foot mountain that looms over the skyline. We arrived late the night before the National Drug Court Month event was taking place so it wasn’t until morning that the peak’s full splendor was revealed. The event was scheduled to be a “collaboration celebration” for everyone involved with the problem-solving courts in El Paso County. This is no small feat; the county is home to the following programs, all of which were represented at the ceremony:
Adult Drug Court Domestic Violence Court DUI Court Family Treatment Court Healthy Engaged and Living Sober (HEALS) Court NCS Contempt Court (Child Support) Veterans Trauma Court