Escambia drug court sees success stories

Published 2:22 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Glenda Lee thought it was the hardest thing she had ever endured. Richard Durham thought it was a trap.
But as weeks and months went by, each became committed to the stability the Escambia County Drug Court brought to their lives — lives that had for years been hampered by addiction and excuses.
On Friday, both plan to use their experiences to help inspire the new graduates of drug court to use their second chance to rebuild their lives.
In her 40s by the time she entered drug court, Lee said the program marked the first time she really grew up.
Her attitude didn’t start out that way.
Drug court — run by Circuit Judge Bradley Byrne and funded largely by local donations — is difficult, administrator Denise Alverson Carlee said.
Staying clean, getting and keeping a job, maintaining a curfew — all are part of the requirements of drug court. Participants are monitored day and night and can be drug tested at random.
Any mistake can lead to a week or more in jail.
Lee took about a year to graduate from drug court. She said that was the time she needed to get her life on track, for the first time in years.
When Lee was in the program, she got a job in maintenance at the Escambia County Courthouse, a position she holds today. The job allows her to keep in contact with drug court personnel.
Lee said the support from drug court staff and counselors helped her make it to graduation.
Once they saw she was serious about getting clean, Lee’s family was also a support network for her, she said.
Learning accountability through drug court has been one of the best ways for Lee to stay on track, she said.
For Durham, drug court was a “blessing in disguise.”
On drugs for many years, Durham knew he needed help, but he always had an excuse for not getting clean.
Durham wanted to change, but he wanted it to be on his own terms. He resented drug court at first.
But as he continued in the program — it took two years for him to graduate — Durham began to realize how much he really needed the stability and accountability drug court required. “I realized the value of it,” he said.
Rehab and anger management classes helped turn Durham’s mind around about drug court, he said.
A few months before his September 2007 graduation, Durham opened Mohawk’s Custom Motorcycle Repair.
Standing in his shop, Durham grinned as he pointed out the bikes in various states of repair and reconstruction — including a racing bike he’s building for himself. “This is my adrenaline rush now,” he said.
Durham is also a Mason and is set to become a Shriner.
Escambia County Drug Court will hold graduation at 10 a.m. Friday in courtroom one at the courthouse. The public is invited. The guest speaker will be former state Rep. Nathan Mathis, whose son was killed in a drug overdose in 2004.