The Summit County Drug Court program commemorated its inaugural graduate on Monday, and its collaborators hope it is one of many more to come in the program's future.
Brent Ryberg, 24, of Park City, was honored during an event at the Sheldon Richins Building by Summit County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Bates with a dismissal of criminal charges certificate for his completion of the Drug Court program, which he had been involved with for over two years.
The Drug Court program, founded in 2011, is run by the Third District Court at the Summit County Justice Center and is a collaborative effort of agencies, including Valley Behavioral Health, the Summit County Attorney's Office, the Summit County Sheriff and Public Defender and Adult Probation and Parole.
"Drug Court is a program that combines some of the best parts of the criminal justice system with some of the best parts of treating drug offenders," Bates said.
Judge Todd Shaughnessy said the program involves group and individual therapy, drug testing three times weekly and clinical treatment.
"Drug court programs have been among the most studied of all of the various aspects of the criminal justice system and have been proven time and again to be the most effective in reducing recidivism, decreasing expense and helping to cut addiction," Shaughnessy said.
The program involves a multi-disciplinary team that provides "an intense level of supervision," according to Bates. Participants in the program are those who have been charged with serious drug offenses and are who are called "high-risk, high-needs" offenders.
"The [participant] will come to court every Monday and if they completed [the treatment] they draw out of a bowl for a prize and get applauded," Bates said. "If they don't meet the standards, they have to do community service or make a donation, or they can be taken into jail."
Ryberg, who was charged with a drug-related felony in 2011, has been working at a restaurant the past two years and plans on attending culinary school in the future.
"This program works if you want it to work, but you definitely have to put in the hard work," Ryberg said. "It's a lot of counseling, drug testing and overall changing behaviors and learning new ones."
Kyle Cherkas, one of Ryberg's peers in the Drug Court program, said that seeing Ryberg graduate is "definitely a success story."
"I've seen him go through a lot of his struggles," Cherkas said, who added the program has worked wonders for him. "If you have a willingness to make your life better, it's easy. I'm very thankful for everything this Drug Court has to offer. It's sort of given me my life back."
Shaughnessy said the driving concept behind Drug Court is getting the community involved and halting the idea of having solely incarceration as a solution.
The graduation event was sponsored by a non-profit group called the Summit County Recovery Foundation, which is aimed at supporting rehabilitation efforts of high-risk drug offenders.
"I'm excited about the Recovery Foundation because I'm not aware of any other non-profits that focus exclusively on helping adult drug offenders with substance abuse problems," Bates said.
Bates said he would like to see other problem-solving courts in Summit County, such as a misdemeanor drug court, a mental health court or a family court. For those who are indigent and have a serious drug problem, Bates said, there are not a lot of options, and this program helps them.
"I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to start fresh," Ryberg said. "It's been a long two years. It's definitely not an easy program. It's still a little unreal right now."