As President Judge Russell Shurtleff handed plaques to the latest graduates of the Wyoming / Sullivan Counties Drug Treatment Court on Thursday, he said they were a group to be admired.
“We have six individuals tonight that we’re all very proud of,” Shurtleff said to the more than 100 people gathered at the Triton Hose Company.
Over the past several months, the graduates have been attending counseling sessions, working with probation officers and assisting each other to overcome the addictions that led them afoul of the law.
Paul Judd of Hop Bottom told his family, friends and others there to cheer him on that had it not been for the treatment program, he might not even be here now.
“What would have happened to me would have been drastic if I didn’t have this alternative,” Judd said. “It just opened up a whole new life for me.”
The others recognized for completing the program were equally grateful, and offered simple thanks to the many people involved in the program.
This was the second graduation ceremony the drug court has held since its inception in the summer of 2008.
One man was recognized for completing the program in January.
Before introducing the honorees, Shurtleff spoke of the impetus that led to the creation of the program.
“We heard that Bradford County had a very successful treatment court,” Shurtleff said. He stated that he and others went to observe Magisterial District Judge Michael Shaw of Sayre in action.
For that reason, Shurtleff invited Shaw to be the guest speaker at the ceremony.
The Bradford County judge noted that he has had 22 graduates in the more than four years his treatment court has been operating. He said the program has enabled all of them to make wise decisions and become productive members of the community.
“No matter what happens to us, it really doesn’t matter. It’s how we respond that matters,” Shaw said.
Addressing each of the Wyoming County graduates, Shaw told them, “You should be extremely proud of yourselves, prouder than anything you may have done in your lives,” he said.
Shaw also encouraged the six graduates to remain active with the program. He pointed out that the alumni group in his program is a key part of the recovery process.
“They’re still giving back for what they received in treatment court,” he said.
Shurtleff also acknowledged the work of Linda Baumunk in handling many of the cases in the treatment court. As a senior magisterial district justice, Baumunk took over Shurtleff’s office when he was elected to the common pleas court.
Shurtleff said at first he thought he could continue presiding over the treatment court while sitting on the county bench. He soon admitted that was a tremendous task.
“She’s done a phenomenal job running the meetings and taking care of things in my absence,” Shurtleff said of Baumunk.
Shurtleff made sure to acknowledge the work put in by the officials and agencies who serve the treatment court. He presented plaques of thanks to representatives of the counseling services A Better Today and Clearbrook Rehabilitation Center.
In return, the staff of A Better Today surprised Shurtleff with a large plaque for the courthouse, which will bear the first names of every drug court graduate.
Shurtleff turned to the graduates and said he would dedicate that plaque to them.
“This is for you, and I’m going to be proud to put it in the courthouse for you,” he said.