Five graduate from Wood County Drug Court

Photo by Wayne Towner Five people were recognized Friday in a graduation ceremony for the Wood County Drug Court program. From left are Michael Akers, Justin Hill, Michael Cales, Amber Fraley and Karen Flowers.

PARKERSBURG — After more than a year of work to turn their lives around, five men and women graduated Friday from the Wood County Drug Court program.

The graduation ceremony was held in the executive conference room and was conducted by adult probation officer Kat Boggs as family, friends and other drug court participants watched.

Circuit Judge Jason Wharton and Stephanie Bond, director of probation services for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, spoke during the ceremony and congratulated the graduates, who included Michael Akers, Michael Cales, Karen Flowers, Amber Fraley and Justin Hill.

Each person thanked the drug court personnel for the help provided in helping them become drug-free and giving them tools to remain so.

“I’m going to stay strong and keep bettering my life,” Fraley said in accepting her graduation certificate.

Photo by Wayne Towner Wood County Circuit Judge Jason Wharton, who serves as judge for the Wood County Drug Court program, speaks Friday during a graduation ceremony for five of the program’s participants.

Boggs praised everyone who completed the program.

“I know we’ve given you the tools, but you have done the work,” she said.

Since 2007, the Wood County Drug Court program has been working to help with treatment and supervision of drug offenders or those who committed crimes due to drug abuse or drug addiction.

Wood County’s drug court is run by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and involves a great degree of treatment and supervision, Boggs said. To be eligible, participants must have to have a non-violent offense and have to apply through the court system.

The program features frequent drug screening, treatment and home visits. Wood County’s drug court program is located at the Day Report Center in Parkersburg and works closely with its programs through classes and screenings, along with Westbrook Health Services and other agencies and organizations in the area.

Boggs said judicial supervision is also a key component of the program, so participants have meetings every Friday at the Wood County Judicial Annex for their first four months to discuss progress, any problems and other issues. The drug court program runs at least one year, with 16 months being the average.

Friday’s ceremony included the 120th through 125th graduates to complete the Wood County program.

Wharton is nearing completion of his first year as drug court judge, after taking over in January for Senior Magistrate Donna Jackson who served in that role from the Wood County program’s inception. Beginning when he was county prosecutor, Wharton has been involved in the drug court program since it started.

He especially likes serving as drug court judge.

“It’s one of the more rewarding parts of the job. You can see on a weekly basis the positive changes that are taking place with defendants who are facing substance abuse and addiction,” Wharton said.

The positive impact of the program goes beyond the participants, Wharton said, since each can have spouses, parents, siblings, children and friends who benefit when their loved one can break that addiction cycle.