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Judge: Local drug court changing lives
Participants reflect rise in heroin use

FORYSTH COUNTY — During a steering committee meeting last week, Forsyth County Drug Court provided an updated on its practices and success.

Forsyth County Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bagley, told the gathering Tuesday that the aim of the program was to stop the enrollees from getting in more trouble.

“The judges and criminal officials saw that if we could intervene in a person’s life, and try to get them some treatment, try to get them straightened out, then maybe we would stop, as we say, that revolving door,” he said.

Bagley noted that the most abused substance has evolved during his time with drug court.

“When I started the program in ’04, [it was] methamphetamine,” he said. “That has changed, now we get prescription painkillers, the Oxys [OxyContin] the Roxys [Roxicodone] and then that’s morphed into heroin.”

Though some who attend the program are resistant, Bagley said it presses participants to make changes.

“We call it coerced treatment, and there’s a lot of controversy. [People said], ‘You can’t coerce someone into treatment.’ Yes, you can,” Bagley said. “We do, and it works. After three months, you begin to see a change. After six months, you really begin to see a change.”

Enrollees must have been arrested for a drug crime and meet clinical conditions for substance abuse or dependence.

“They need to have a problem,” Bagley said. “We’re spending a lot of resources, time and effort and money on these people. And if they don’t really have a problem with drugs or addiction, we don’t really need to expend that on them.”

Attendees are required to go to a weekly court attendance review, pay fees, take random drug tests and must be a student or full-time employee or both. 

The program does not take those convicted of violent crimes or who have been arrested for distribution of drugs.

“We don’t take any sale or distribution of drugs for obvious reasons,” Bagley said. “You don’t want somebody you’re bringing in to your program to start dealing and dealing to your participants.”

According to the presentation, nationally 75 percent of those who graduate the drug court program are still drug free two years later. Forsyth boasts 254 graduates and has 65 current participants.

“No disrespect to the rehab programs that are out there, there are a lot of good ones out there,” Bagley said. “[But] I have seen so many participants … who have failed each and every time in the private rehabs, and then they come into drug court program and they graduate.”