SNEW ULM - A man and woman who graduated from Brown, Nicollet and Watonwan County Drug Court Monday praised the program and thanked those who supported them through their recovery.
Judge Allison Krehbiel praised Jared Netzke and Amy Drexler of New Ulm for their hard work in the Drug Court, a specialty problem-solving court that handles substance-abusing offenders with judicial monitoring, frequent drug testing, treatment services as well as immediate sanctions and incentives.
Staffing teams meet weekly before court to discuss new cases and create strategy to help offenders deal with their problems in order to break the cycle of substance abuse, addiction and related crime.
"Graduation is a great thing because people have worked very hard to stay sober," Krehbiel said. "This demonstrates that people can have fun without drugs and alcohol."
Both graduates received signed letters from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota for their ability to conquer their addictions.
Netzke entered Drug Court in order to stay out of prison.
"I'm learning how to change my lifestyle, and it feels great," Netzke said. "I've learned a great deal. ... I needed the structure of Drug Court."
Brown County Probation Agent Shane Sellner praised Netzke for earning his Graduate Equivalency Degree (GED) since entering Drug Court.
"Jared proved he can accomplish whatever he puts his mind to," Sellner said.
New Ulm attorney Josh Steinbrecher said he wasn't sold on Drug Court at first but after seeing how it changed Netzke's life, Steinbrecher changed his mind.
Sellner said Drexler replaced negative people in her life with positive influences, which enabled her to earn A's at South Central College and find a job.
New Ulm Medical Center treatment counselor Dave Gilman said he saw Drexler's mood change from unhappy to happy because she really felt that way.
"I was arrested nearly two years ago. Now I'm starting my fourth college semester and am able to give back to society instead of taking from it," Drexler said.
Krehbiel told the grads and other Drug Court participants at the ceremony to stay sober for themselves.
"Remember you're still on probation. then you begin group supervision," Krehbiel said.
To be eligible for Court, offenders' primary problem are alcohol or other drug abuses or addictions. They have been charged with felonies or gross misdemeanor offenses or violated probation.
Drug courts provide incentives to participants who comply with program requirements; reduce probation terms, treatment conditions, fees, and other innovative rewards instead of only the threat of incarceration, which does not motivate such people.
There are currently 28 people in Brown, Nicollet and Watonwan Drug Court programs.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).