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JULIAN — “I’m so very proud of you.”

This was one of many emotional congratulatory statements that came from the mouth of Boone and Lincoln County Circuit Judge William Thompson on Wednesday afternoon.

This specific phrase was aimed at graduate James Terry – who was able to regain custody of his children, who stood proudly with him. His daughter gleamed resplendently as she took a firm grasp of the certificate Judge Thompson extended to her father.

The gathering of nearly 200 people at Water Ways Park celebrated the accomplishments of 21 individuals who completed adult drug courts, family treatment courts or juvenile drug courts.

It was a day to celebrate the largest class in West Virginia history, according to organizers.

“This is simply overwhelming,” said West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Evan Jenkins, one of three justices at the event. “I want to say on behalf of the Supreme Court that we love you and we care about what you are achieving.”

Corey Cantley was homeless when he came into the drug court program in Boone County and today is the general manager of a local restaurant.

“This program is great,” Cantley said. “I was living on the riverbanks and digging roots to support my habits,” he said. “This program taught me that I could be somebody and I was one of the worst drug addicts you could ever see in your life. I was awful. This program saved my life.”

Prior to the Supreme Court supporting the program, Thompson provided substantial research regarding family court trends and statistics across from around the country. The blueprints used for success in West Virginia were Ithaca, New York, and Orange County, North Carolina.

Thompson has spoken around the country about the successes of his programs – including in Washington, D.C.

Chasity Street has moved her two daughters into an apartment with her and now works as a peer recovery specialist through Marshall University and is continuing her education.

Multiple counties have come aboard with treatment courts like Thompson has championed in Boone and Lincoln counties including Randolph, Ohio, Nicholas and Roane among others who are testing the waters of beginning the initiative in struggling rural areas across West Virginia.

Graduate John Franklin was homeless and served jail time before finding a temporary home at Hero House of Danville but is employed now and is working toward having his own home.

Two businesses who regularly hire employees who are in adult drug courts, family treatment courts or juvenile drug courts were also honored as Tudors (Greg Atkins and Loretta Davis) of Danville and Carnivore BBQ (John and April Brown) of Hamlin were on hand to support a handful of employees.

“This is not the work of me or me alone,” said Thompson as he recognized current participants in the programs, Supreme Court employees and county-level workers.

“What we’ve seen today is the work of not only our graduates but our probation officers, day report staffs, youth report center staffs, our West Virginia Supreme Court and staff and it truly takes everyone present here today to get the people to this position. This has been a rough year in the recovery community and to see this many people graduate in the midst of a pandemic is absolutely incredible.”

For assistance regarding substance abuse call or text Help4WV for free to talk to a counselor at 844-435-7498.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

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