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Letter: Drug court really works

Recently I was invited to the premier graduation from St. Croix County's newly established Drug Court. Judge Edward Vlack opened by sharing some background regarding the Drug Court program and its first graduate, Travis Johnson.

Vlack continued by addressing 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." County Prosecutor Dave McQuillam explained how the Drug Court started two years ago and its goal: "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."

A substance abuse counselor then spoke: "Travis, 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." Travis then began recalling an incident that changed his life.

Early in the Drug Court proceedings -- about two years ago -- Vlack had asked him to approach the bench for a dialogue. Upon coming face-to-face, the judge 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 said 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. He further stated that it was at that point he had made the conscious decision to start listening and to start learning. Travis added that it didn't just happen overnight, but that it has been, and continues to be, a process.

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