Genesee County drug court helps addicts choose to live

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Joel Feick NBC25/FOX66

The Genesee county drug court recently received a $2 million federal grant to help fight the growing opioid epidemic.

The court is in session every Monday and is an intensive form of probation that includes drug tests and regular meetings with counselors.

"I was clean and sober for 7 years until my father passed away," a participant said.

The court is for adults who've committed felonies.

"My drug of choice: heroin," Jesse Ivory, a father of two from Burton, said.

About 100 people have been enrolled in the court in each of the past five years. The program lasts from one to two years.

"We want to protect the community the folks in drug court are committing crimes to get high," Genesee County Judge Mark Latchana said.

Dustin Dady, 32, of Davison, is a former addict who's brother Daniel died of an overdose.

"I was a wild child. At a young age I drank, a lot," Dady said.

Along the way, cocaine, Oxycontin and heroin.

"I was the hopeless variety, very desperate, I was selling dope to get dope," He said.

He said drug court has allowed him to embrace sobriety. It took him to the birthplace of alcoholics anonymous.

"We we sat at the table where it all got hashed out, where AA was born," Dady said.

He is one of many success stories of the drug court.

A lady was given a gas card as a prize.

There are setbacks at the drug court, as well.

"We've had some people who have not made it through the program and that overdosed and died, and I've been to their funerals," Latchana said.

One man missed his drug test, so the judge sent him right to jail.

From the bench, the judge said, "I want to focus on positive".

Latchana said drug court is a better deal for taxpayers and is far less expensive than jail since the program is funded by the state and users themselves.

"The more open relationship the court has and team has with the participant, the higher rate of success is," Latchana said.

Many of these people have hit bottom more than once.

"I was faced with prison time , either make a change for the better or go onto the bitter end and just die," Dady said.

For those who are ready to quit, drug court can be a connection to a new life.

"What we want to do is treat the underlying addiction so they don't commit crimes and it makes our community a better place to live," Latchana said.

Latchana said recovery isn't easy. Perhaps drug court can help. The only alternatives for them in some cases is jail, prison or even death.

"There is a solution out there for us, we have to find it," Dady said.