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Letter: Impressed by drug court

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opinion River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Recently I was invited to be present at the premier graduation from St. Croix County's newly established drug court. Judge Edward Vlack opened the meeting by sharing with the background regarding the program in general and about the first graduate, Travis Johnson.

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Vlack told Travis: "To achieve something great, has to come from within yourself. Know that you have the support of this drug court and of your community." Liesl Nelson, one of the drug court facilitators, added: "He (Travis) has poured himself into his recovery and into his family."

Dave McQuillan, county prosecutor, made reference to the genesis of the drug court program by stating that two years ago those who had conceived of the idea of having a drug court up and running in our county shared a common goal, namely, "We're going to take those in the community who are costing the county the most and -- rather than incarcerate them -- work on rehabilitating them." McQuillan then turned to Travis and said: "It's been an honor and a privilege to witness your recovery, Travis, and it's so good to see you here today."

One of the substance abuse counselors then said, "Your commitment to recovery is nothing less than astounding; your good example as a role model is, and will continue to be, a good example for others." Vlack then invited Travis to speak and he began by recalling an incident that changed his life. Early in the drug court proceedings, Vlack had asked him to approach the bench. Vlack extended his hand to Travis in a handshake, saying to him: "You've got to focus on your sobriety, and you've got to focus on your children. Don't ever underestimate your ability to take control of your life."

Travis told us how meaningful it was to him that a judge would shake his hand while at the same time challenging him to turn his life around. Travis added that it didn't just happen overnight, but that it has been, and continues to be, a process. He thanked Judge Vlack and each member of the drug court, "I can truly say that I owe my life to drug court."

My sincere congratulations to you, Travis, and to those in our county judicial system who have supported you on this remarkable and successful journey.

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