Kyle Lovern/Williamson Daily News Two successfully completely the Drug Court Program in Mingo County and a graduation ceremony was held on Thursday for them. Pictured, left to right, graduate Kim Cantrell, probation officer Shawn Houbrich, graduate Jason Payne and Chief Probation officer Tonya Webb.

Two people were happily celebrating with their families on Thursday afternoon in the circuit courtroom after completing a comprehensive course for the Mingo County Drug Court program. This was the same place they had appeared in front of a judge for sentencing after past problems with drug addiction. But Thursday was a much brighter occasion.

Kim Cantrell and John Payne have both had tough roads due to dependence on illegal drugs but are now clean and sober and ready to be productive citizens in the community, they said.

Cantrell, a resident of Williamson, said of her experience, "It has been rough, but it has totally changed my life for the better.

"It has taught me structure, taught me how to be me again it has given me back everything I lost," Cantrell continued. Cantrell had been addicted to fentanyl and, as she said, "I was on it pretty bad."

Cantrell has been dealing with the death of her mother, which made her journey even more difficult, but she persevered. "Most people thought I would slide back - but this program and this group of people helped me and supported me a lot."

She has now been clean for 13 months, after going through the daily and weekly routine of the rigorous drug court program, which is a part of the Mingo County Probation office. Cantrell plans to continue to attend NA (narcotics anonymous) meetings and hopes to help others with similar issues. Cantrell is now certified as a recovery coach.

Cantrell recently completed the Fresh Start gardening program and is proud of that accomplishment. She hopes to get a job and continue to get her life on the right track.

Payne, who resides in Dingess, W.Va., was addicted to methamphetamine. He lost his job and four years of his life.

"I got in trouble and was arrested," Payne said. He was charged with possession and delivery of meth.

"I did two months in jail and they came to me with an offer to go into this drug court program," Payne said. "They told me it was hard, but I decided to do it anyway. They were right, it is hard, but I accomplished it."

Payne has now been clean for 16 months.

"It feels good," he added. "It's been a long time since I've been sober. The drug court staff has been amazing during my recovery. They make time for you. They keep check on you and reach out to you."

Payne used to work for a survey company but lost his job because of his drug problem. "I lost sight of things trying to get my next fix," he said bluntly. "But I have talked to my former boss and he is willing to give me another chance once I completed the program."

Shawn Haubrich serves as the Drug Court probation officer over the program and works closely with those who seek to get sober and improve their lives.

"Drug Court is an intensive program that is a minimum of a year. They drug screen at least twice a week," Haubrich said. "Sometimes they screen three to four times a week. That is not just during the week, but sometimes on weekends and even holidays."

"They are involved in group and individual therapy," Haubrich stressed. "They complete community service."

The participants have to appear in court before the judge once a week and also see a therapist on a routine basis. "Just that reassurance from Judge (Miki) Thompson helps them," said Haubrich, who noted the Day Report Work Program is also a big part of the recovery efforts. "They spend most of their time in Day Report and they deserve a lot of the credit," he added. "They are with Day Report 40 hours a week. I can't say enough about that program."

"It's a minimum of a year, but it doesn't mean they will complete the program in a year. When we graduate someone, we want to feel good about it. We give them the tools, which is the easy part; now the work begins," Haubrich said.

Haubrich said the program is split into three phases of four months each and the participants progress through each part. He said he has a past participant who is working on a master's degree and others who are gainfully employed after successfully completing the Drug Court program.

"We are very excited to have these two graduates this time," said Tonya Webb, chief probation officer for Mingo County. "They have completed a lot of hours of classes, community service and being sober. It's been a big change in their lives."

Webb said the program can help people get their driver's license back, regain custody of their children and even obtain their GED.

"They have to go through a very intense course. They've been with us for more than a year," Webb added. "They've maintained their sobriety and will be productive citizens in the community. That makes it really special for us."

This was the third successful Drug Court graduation for Mingo County. Circuit Judge Miki Thompson, Sheriff James Smith, Williamson Police Chief Grady Dotson, along with other law enforcement and local officials attended the graduation.

Kyle Lovern is editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at 304-236-3526 or via email at klovern@HDMediaLLC.com.