5 graduate from drug court program aimed at curbing addiction

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — Five more people are graduating from the McCracken County Drug Court Program. That may not sound like a lot, but McCracken Circuit Judge Tim Kaltenbach says it has the potential to impact our community in a big way.

The program is geared toward people at high risk and with great need who have been convicted of felony drug charges. The McCracken County program began in 2006. It recently became the third county to ever receive a combined grant for funding.

Kaltenbach says his court handles roughly 1,000 cases on the docket per year. The two-year drug program has only 50 slots, which are constantly filled. While he and his team work with 5 percent of the docket through the drug court program, the judge says our community ultimately benefits from the productive citizens who graduate.

“Once they come out, the question is: If they have a drug or alcohol addiction, are they going to be committing more crimes? Almost certainly, if that goes untreated,” Kaltenbach says.

That’s why Kaltenbach says he volunteers as judge for the program. He says it’s geared toward rewarding good behavior, punishing bad behavior, and treating sick behavior.

“It’s difficult. The one thing that we are programmed to do is to put people in jail, and yet when you apply that to national standards, that’s supposed to be the last measure — that you impose a jail sanction,” Kaltenbach says.

Friday was the day Kaltenbach says he and his staff look forward to: graduation. Local 6 spoke with one of the graduates, who preferred not to be identified. She says it’s a program that helped her get her life on track for her husband and two kids.

“I’m really happy to be able to be a good role model today and to set a good example, be employable, be able to go to school. You know, there are so many things I can do today that I couldn’t do two years ago,” she says.

Kaltenbach says with the rising drug problem in our county, the drug court program isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s better than the alternatives.

McCracken County Drug Court Supervisor Crystal Poloski  says on average a person who completes the program goes to 115 treatment sessions, 324 self help meetings, pass 168 drug tests, attends 45 educational groups on coping skills and life skills, and appears before Kaltenbach more than 50 times.

The judge says, while the drug problem continues to plague our community, the light at the end of the tunnel is the people who graduate the program and make a positive impact in our community.

Poloski says the program’s graduation rate is 44 percent, and they’re looking at ways to increase that rate.

For information on this story and others, like Bryce Mansfield on Facebook.