City Drug Court celebrates summer graduation

Dunkirk City Court will hold its summer graduation/open house on Thursday at 11 a.m. in the Dunkirk City Courtroom in City Hall. The ceremony is scheduled to honor the anticipated graduates who have completed their rigorous recovery program and recognize current participants who are advancing through the mandated phases. Four individuals are expected to be completing their program.

Since the start of the treatment court in Dunkirk in 2002, the Drug Court treatment model seeks to break the chains of abuse by providing a holistic team approach has been used to enable individuals to change their lives. This is not easy or quick for defendants to do.

Graduates are employed, paying any child care expenses, no longer on public assistance, are not incarcerated, and are law abiding productive citizens. The Dunkirk treatment program works with individuals, including veterans, who have alcohol, drug and/or mental health problems and simultaneously a criminal charge.

Dunkirk City Court Judge Walter Drag typically uses country music, flowers, and folklore to stress the components of recovery to those in attendance.

The Dunkirk City Treatment Court offers this alternative handling of criminal cases not only to defendants in City Court but also all town and village courts of Northern Chautauqua County and Chautauqua County Court in Mayville. Judge Drag has presided in the Treatment Court since its beginning.

In addition to the participants who are graduating and moving in phase advancement, a “Beacon of Hope” award is presented to a person who has shown a deep personal commitment to helping the participants work a recovery program in the treatment court. A framed print of the Dunkirk Historical Light house is presented to the recipient since the lighthouse offers as “beacon of hope” to those lost in addiction, similar to a ship enveloped by darkness or fog on the lake. Certificates of Appreciation also are presented recognizing the efforts of the Drug Court’s partners. Fredonia State University College will be recognized for providing over 50 interns to City Court over the last eleven years. College President Dr. Virginia Horvath is invited with representatives of the Internship/Career Development Office and Student Affairs.

“The good news is that people can and do change sometimes in spite of tremendous odds against them. That is why we hold graduations and open houses to bear witness to the courage and success of those completing the program. It also offers encouragement to those in the program and to those considering it,” Judge Drag concluded,

The public is invited to attend the graduation in Dunkirk City Court. A short reception will follow the Court proceedings.