Walworth County drug court notches first success
ELKHORN—For the past 18 months, Kayla Moran has performed a series of miracles.
Not miracles as in magic.
No, Moran's miracles resulted from dogged and unglamorous work.
She had to rethink her worldview, cope with life's difficulties without making excuses and look squarely at a past full of self-inflicted disasters.
Thursday, Moran became the first person to graduate from Walworth County's drug court at the Walworth County Judicial Center in Elkhorn.
It was a big day for Moran, her family, the county team that runs the program and participants who are still working on their own miracles.
The drug court started in 2014 after the county received a $157,609 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Moran's struggle with addictions goes back further and has cost her a lot more.
About five years ago, after she had her second child, she was give opioids to help her to recover from her cesarean section. The child's father had left her, and she was depressed. The drugs made her feel better, and she kept going back for more.
She later discovered that heroin was significantly cheaper and worked better. She became a user and then a seller.
Her two children were taken away, but that didn't stop her drug use.
Eventually, her probation officer got her into inpatient treatment and then into drug court.
In her report to the court, Moran apologized for the impact of heroin addiction on her family—especially her mother, Tammy Moran.
“I'm sorry. I'm sorry that she had to grieve my death, even though I was sitting right next to her,” Kayla Moran said. “I want to thank her for being the mother that I couldn't be to my own children.”
Before entering drug court, she hadn't had her children for an overnight visit in three years. She didn't have a home or a job.
The drug court team helped her find a place to live, and Roma's Ristorante owner Mark Galluzzo gave her a job. Her grandfather helped her get a car.
On Thursday, her family was there. So were Galluzzo and her co-workers.
More than anything, Moran said she was grateful to be free from addiction.
“I love waking up every morning and not having to chase that anymore,” Moran said. “I can wake up, and I can just lay in my bed and not have to think about anything. Before, it was a 24/7 job. I was either buying it, selling it, using it. That was my life; that's what I did all day long.”
The drug court's goal is to reduce recidivism, and it is open to Walworth County residents charged with possession of heroin or related charges.
Participants must undergo random drug and alcohol tests up to five times a week, attend individual and group therapy, and appear in court every other week.
The program is divided into three 16-week phases with six months of aftercare.
A team consisting of Judge David Reddy, treatment court coordinator Katie Behl, therapists, probation officers and others work together on each case.
Before Moran's graduation, each participant appeared before Reddy for review.
The judge's method was a mixture of carrot and stick. He doled out kudos without overlooking infractions. He asked for explanations and accountability but was willing to joke or smile in encouragement.
Those interviews provided evidence of ongoing miracles. One participant was in car accident that sent him to the emergency room. Not knowing about his drug-addicted past, doctors offered him “something for his pain.” The man declined, saying, “Ibuprofen would be fine.”
Another man was dealing with his father's death. A woman navigated a stressful situation that triggered memories of past trauma.
Not everyone was successful. There were missed appointments. Others acknowledged drinking or other violations.
One man was terminated from the program.
Behl said the success rate for drug court programs nationwide averages about 53 percent. Success is defined as participants who stay off drugs and out of the criminal justice system.
That compares to a residential treatment success rate of about 10 percent to 20 percent.
Both Behl and Reddy believe their success rate can be higher than 53 percent.
The key, Behl said, is “fidelity” to proven models of treatment. She also believes that Reddy's commitment to the process makes all the difference.
William Arreola, an alcohol and drug counselor, said Reddy is “completely invested” in the program.
It was Moran, however, who gave him the greatest compliment.
In her final report to the court, she praised the judge, saying, “You see us as individuals and people, not just felons and criminals. You don't just listen, you hear us, and to me there is a huge difference.”