First graduates honored in DWI Track program
The first two graduates of the Steele Waseca Drug Court DWI (driving while intoxicated) Track Program were honored at a special ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 19.
Graduating from the special DUI track program were: Jamison Allen and Brandon Oareskovich, both of Owatonna.
"I don't have the words to say how proud I am of you," said an emotional Dakota Oareskovich when speaking about her husband's accomplishments.
Third District Court Judge Joseph Bueltel presented each graduate with a plaque and a special coin. The graduation took place in a court room at the Steele County Courthouse in Owatonna.
Allen and Oareskovich became the 36th and 37th graduates of the SWDC program and the first and second of the Track program.
"It was a long and difficult journey and at times I thought we were going to lose him," remarked Brandon's mother Sherry Holt.
"As addicts, we skip the thinking process," Allen spoke in front of a packed courtroom, which featured family of both graduates and also included judicial officials and probationary officers.
Steele County Attorney Dan McIntosh congratulated both graduates, saying Allen used the power of positive self talk to fight his addiction and Oareskovich rededicated himself to his family.
Oareskovich said there were "lots of struggles" during his time in Drug Court. “Without the people who loved me, I would not be alive today," he confided. "I always had people care for me when I didn't care for myself," he added.
Allen said he was grateful for the simple things in life: waking up in the morning, having family as support and having Drug Court as a support resource.
"You've got to change your thinking process" to beat this alcohol addiction, Allen pointed out. "Drug Court was a game changer for me," he believes.
Planning for SWDC began in 2013 and was implemented on July 1, 2014. The program was implemented to respond to high risk/high need substance abusers that continued to cycle in and out of our local justice system and jails.
Drug Courts are the most effective response based on research for these particular offenders to reduce recidivism and assist them in their pathway to recovery. Drug courts are constantly seeking to enhance and improve SWDC services, says Drug Court director Nicole Grams.
In October of 2016, the program was enhanced with a Bureau of Justice Assistance-Drug Court Enhancement grant to incorporate early mental health evaluations, mental health consultation, defense counsel services, training and continued evaluation.
In January of 2017, SWDC secured a grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety-Office of Justice Program-Community Reinvestment Grant. These funds were used to launch a DWI track that specifically targeted how to best serve high risk/high need DWI offenders based on the highly effective and proven DWI court model.
With the addition of this track, SWDC capacity increased by 20 participants for a total of 60 capacity.
SWDC has served just 163 participants with 74 that either withdrew-electing to serve their jail/prison time, transferred to another drug court or were terminated based on new criminal behavior or rejection of services.
SWDC had its first graduation in April of 2016, Allen and Oareskovich are the 36th and 37th graduates. The program is rigorous. It has four-phases and is a minimum of 18 months.
SWDC requires court attendance ranging from weekly to monthly, contingent on phase. Recovery related programming includes treatment, support meetings, mental health meetings, completion of cognitive skills programs that help to change thinking which changes behaviors and recovery events. At least three hours of self-help recovery meetings are required weekly. Participants submit to minimum of twice weekly random testing. All participants must complete treatment, make meaningful connections in the recovery community, obtain a valid driver license, GED/Diploma, employment, compliance with child support and payment of fines, fees and restitution prior to graduation. Allen and Oareskovich are testaments that Drug Courts Work; reduce crime, restore citizenship and save lives!
The combined total amount of sobriety among today's participants is 14,695 days an estimated average of 40 combined years. Average sobriety per participant is 272 days.
Allen started the program on June 5, 2017. He completed 563 days or about 18 months in the program. He entered into the program on a felony-DWI conviction carrying a mandatory prison sentence of 54 months. This was Allen’s seventh DWI conviction since 2000 and his BAC was .20. Based on his ability to participate in a drug court program, he received a downward departure and was placed on probation.
At the time of entry, Allen was homeless, unemployed and had a cancelled license. He was given the immediate promise of drug court.
Allen went to residential treatment at Teen Challenge and had to continue to return to court in Scott County to ask again for be given a chance at drug court.
Drug Court agreed to allow him to try the program. After Teen challenge, he transferred to West Hills Lodge in Owatonna where he stabilized his ties to the community by seeking employment and at the conclusion of that treatment program, moved into his own apartment.
He has continued to thrive in the program and shares stories of focusing on positive thoughts, interrupting negative thoughts and improving his relationship with his son.
Allen has logged 668 days of sobriety. He has continued to be connected and utilizes support gained through the recovery community.
Oareskovich started the program on May 24, 2017. He was in the program for 575 days or about 19 months. He entered into the program on a gross misdemeanor second-degree DWI conviction that carried a risk of incarceration of 365 days.
Oareskovich has totaled 590 days of sobriety. Grams said he has always put his recovery first, which has contributed to improving his relationships with family first and has drawn high regards from his employer.