Two graduate from Coweta DUI Court
by Wes Mayer
Two men graduated from Coweta County DUI Court Thursday, adding their thumbprints to the tree and starting a new path in their lives.
The court held a graduation ceremony for Jason Akery and Jeffery Nordin at the Coweta County Justice Center.
Leslie Grabensteder, the court coordinator, introduced the two graduates; Judge Seay VanPatten Poulakos, who presides over the DUI court, presented their certificates of completion; and Jennifer Craig and Reggie Jordan, treatment coordinator and treatment counselor, spoke about the tremendous determination and progression of the graduates.
Grabensteder first spoke to the participants in the program and their friends and family members about the DUI court. She said it was appropriate to hold the graduation this month because October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, and an estimated 20.6 million Americans are currently addicted to either alcohol or drugs. With the help of programs like Coweta County's DUI court, lives of alcohol abusers and their families can be improved by helping them stay sober.
Before graduating Akery and Nordin, Poulakos told them they could pat themselves on the back. She said they are not only setting an example to the other participants in the program, but to people of all ages who are in trouble because of their addictions to alcohol.
Each graduate received a certificate of completion for the program and added a green thumbprint to a painting of a mostly leafless tree - representing their graduation and new growth for their future. After Akery was presented his certificate, he briefly gave his opinions on the program. He said when he first began, he only planned on staying sober just long enough to get the heat off, then go back to drinking. But after being sober for 12 months and going through DUI court, he said he never wants to go back to his old life because of how much the program has improved his life.
Nordin also spoke briefly after receiving his diploma from Poulakos. He spoke about how he wanted to quit drinking as he recently became a father. With the program, he said, he finally received the strength to quit, and he is thankful for the opportunity.
The Coweta County DUI Court is a voluntary program for eligible DUI offenders. The program lasts a minimum of 14 months and involves a fivephase road to recovery: orientation, extended assessment, treatment and early recovery, relapse prevention and recovery management. Participants receive certificates for each step to the next phase, and a certificate of completion with their graduation from the program.
Volunteers in the programs are placed on probation for a minimum of two years, and they are mandated by the court to attend substance abuse treatment, self-help groups, random drug tests, biweekly court appearances and more to aid their recovery. The participants pay for all their fees and must obtain a limited permit driver's license from the Georgia Department of Drivers Services.
The DUI court program is a collaboration between the Solicitor's Office, Coweta County State Court Probation and Grace Harbour, a private outpatient mental health practice.
The Coweta County DUI Court has been active for more than 14 months.