‘Let me check my phone’
"How many days of sobriety are you at?"
Destiny Reich, 28, of Owatonna, replied to a friend's inquiry, "Let me check my phone." Her research on her phone revealed 791 days.
These 791 days reflected significant progress in the Steele Waseca Drug Court program and meant that she represents the 43rd overall graduate from the program.
Prior to donning a robe symbolizing graduation from the program on Wednesday, May 8, Reich fielded some questions from the media. Asked how she became involved in drug Court, she responded: "I got in trouble and was convicted in April of 2017 of second-degree sale of methamphetamines.
Had Reich not agreed to be part of the program, she faced 48 months in prison and five years of probation.
"I didn't go to prison and it was because of Drug Court," Reich said.
When she came to Drug Court, she was unemployable and had surrendered custody of her three children for 18 months. Steele County took custody of the children under the child protection program.
Reich has since been "clean" for 26 months, is self-employed, cleaning houses, and has custody of her children one again. She also wed Daniel Reb on July 2, 2018.
"Drug Court has given me the accountability I needed to lead a good, productive life," Destiny says proudly. Talking about her fellow Drug Court participants, Reich said, "We're all good friends."
In recovery, it is good to have positive friends, Reich says.
She says she was a "completely different person" in 2010 when she was drinking and doing drugs. She was 19 at the time.
Reich was celebrating her graduation but has more success on which to build, she says. "I have a big support group and wish to keep in contact with these people," she related.
She hopes to go back to college and become a phlebotomist, a nurse or other health worker trained in drawing venous blood for testing or donation.
Looking into the eyes of her three children, Reich said the kids are very proud of her. "They are like my little cheerleaders," she smiled.
Sitting beside their mother and showing an unrestricted love for their mother were Zayleigh Reich-Pete, 10; Tyler Gartner, 6 and Trynity Reich-Pete, 11. The family resides in Owatonna.
Reich's day of graduation was actually part of Law Day, which saw various county agencies put up booths to tell about their services.
"Welcome to Law Day" Third District Judge Joseph A. Bueltel greeted a packed courtroom as he presided over another session of Steele Waseca Drug Court.
Drug Court graduations typically happen on the last Wednesday of the month, but on this day, it coincided with Law Day. Bueltel also paid tribute to Reich, her family and friends.
"We want people to be clean and sober and get on with their lives," Judge Bueltel stated.
Bueltel then prepared to visit with all participants of Drug Court and learn their degrees of progress in the program.
Bueltel is generally the authority person who asks questions of the Drug Court participants. This time, he challenged the Drug Court participants to think of a question of the day. "It's all about learning from each other," he said.
Sending a terse message to all participants, Bueltel said Drug Court wants all participants to be set up for success and not failure.
Following a visit with each Drug Court participant in attendance, Bueltel then opened the graduation ceremonies and asked for comments from family members, friends and agency representatives.
"I'm really nervous," Reich confessed as she stepped before the bench.
The judge read a letter of congratulations from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. "Your graduation is a testament to your commitment and determination," Sen. Klobuchar wrote.
Steele County Board Chairman Greg Krueger congratulated Reich and challenged her to keep up the good work. Fellow commissioner Rick Gnemi said the graduation "is another step in your life." He thanked her for being positive.
Nicole Grams, coordinator for the Steele Waseca Drug Court, provided some history of the Drug Court progression.
Grams spoke about planning, which began in 2013 and resulted in the program being implemented in July of 2014.
Grams explained that the program was implemented to respond to high risk/high need substance abusers who continued to cycle in and out of the local justice system and jails.
Drug Courts, which started in Florida, have proven to be most effective as a response based on research for these particular offenders to reduce recidivism and assist them in their pathway to recovery.
"We are constantly seeking to enhance and improve our services," Grams said.
The Steele Waseca Drug Court has received grants to grow the program. One grant allowed the Drug Court to launch a DWI track that specifically targeted how to best serve high risk/high need DWI offenders.
Grams said SWDC has served 174 participants with 80 either withdrawing from the program, or electing to serve their jail/prison time, transferred to another Drug Court or were terminated based on new criminal behavior or rejection of services.
Today, SWDC has 49 participants. The program is rigorous, Grams said, and has four phases with a minimum of 18 months required in the program.
SWDC requires court attendance ranging from weekly to monthly, contingent on the 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 must submit to a minimum of twice weekly random testing.
All participants must complete treatment, make meaningful connections in the recovery community, obtain a valid driver license, earn a GED/Diploma, gain employment and comply with child support and payment of fines, fees and restitution prior to graduation.
The combined total of sobriety amongst the Steele Waseca Drug Court group is 13,650 days, an estimated average of 37.40 combined years. Average sobriety per participant is 278 days.
Reich started the program on Feb. 1, 2017 and has participated for 27 months. She has taken over 216 tests and has been committed to self-care, being active in the recovery community. Grams said Reich says her Drug Court involvement has "dramatically changed how Destiny parents her children."
Grams said Reich must continue to focus on herself. "We saw her grow in this program and become very driven," Grams said.
Probation officer Jessica Bedney paid tribute to Reich's resourcefulness.
Social worker Dave Wright told Reich it was an honor to be part of her life. He said faith was very important to her.
County Attorney Dan McIntosh said her biggest measure in her success was her giving her kids an opportunity for a better life.
"This is a happy day," said Joel Easton, Steele County probation officer.
Reich's sister, Briona Madson, said there were "lots of ups and downs" during Reich's recovery. "It's been a journey," she added.
Even Reich's young son offered words to his mother: "Congratulations mama."
Reich's in-laws, Roger and Kathy Reb, saluted Reich's accomplishments. "She is like a breath of fresh air," Kathy said. "She's kept such a positive attitude," Kathy said.
Reich was also given the chance to speak. "I am really grateful," she said. "Drug Court gave me a second chance to be a mom and a person."
"Everything is because of God," Reich told those in the courtroom.