Drug court graduates 300th person in Will Co.
By Brian Stanley email@example.com March 28, 2013 6:50PM
Updated: May 1, 2013 2:57PM
The Will County boardroom overflowed with family and friends of the 14 people graduating drug court Thursday afternoon.
But many of the graduates who chose to speak about their experiences directed their attention to the dozen people in neon green scrubs surrounded by armed deputies — the candidates who will start the program.
“I remember sitting in custody two years ago (thinking it) wouldn’t work,” Danielle Heino said. “But they don’t have you do anything that’s going to hurt you. Looking back I see now why every rule is in place.”
Heino, of Wilmington, was the 300th graduate of the program which began in 1999. Circuit Court Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes has presided over drug court for eight years.
Non violent offenders can have their convictions expunged by completing the program, not only helping them but saving money for the court, police and prison systems, Alessio-Policandriotes said.
“The most important thing is drug court saves lives. That’s the best thing about it,” she said.
Graduates from Joliet, Berwyn, Bolingbrook, Channahon, Crest Hill, Crete, Homer Glen, Plainfield and Wilmington have gone through both inpatient and outpatient treatment. They’ve also had to attend regular support group meetings, paid toward their care, perform community service, complete high school, work or be a full-time student and make any restitution. They’re also subject to random drug testing.
“I would be dead or in prison without this program,” Heino said. “The availability of resources make (the biggest difference). I couldn’t afford rehab.”
Casey Koesling, who is recovering from a heroin addiction, started using prescription drugs in high school and was revived by paramedics on seven overdoses.
Koesling is now preparing to start business classes at Illinois State University.
Many graduates said their addictions deeply damaged their families, but the support from drug court allowed them to rebuild and vice-versa. Before entering the program Heino and Koesling had a daughter together. While judges can’t typically accept gifts, Alessio-Policandriotes said Kennedy, 2, sent her something in a thank you note written by Heino’s mother.
“It’s a mangled photograph (Kennedy) had obviously clutched a lot. When mommy and daddy were gone she always had them with her,” the judge said. “Now, because of drug court, she has them with her for real.”