Megan Langhoff didn’t have to go to jail during her most recent drug treatment court hearing in Walworth County.
Back in the fall when she first started the program, she said she was getting sanctioned nearly every week.
But after a few months, “something clicked.”
“I got sick of it,” she said during a recent interview. “I got sick of going to jail. I got sick of disappointing my family.”
Of late, Langhoff has been doing much better. There are still some “little hiccups here and there,” but she’s better.
She said the team of court and other county officials that runs drug court—a team that over the past several months no longer includes the district attorney’s office—understands that relapses happen. Mistakes happen. Recovery isn’t linear.
The persistence and support that comes along with drug court is helping Langhoff better her life and bringing her closer and closer to getting back her 2-year-old son, Emric.
Langhoff, 30, said she wanted to share her experience with the program after The Gazette reported April 28 on how officials worry that District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld’s stance on the program could kill it soon.
Wiedenfeld has taken plea deals off the table for defendants who want to be screened for the program, a move that drug court supporters have said is behind the latest struggle to get enough participants.
Drug court only has about a half dozen participants, when in the past it has been grant-funded for about four times that.
The DA in the past has said he wanted more explicit criteria for who can and cannot be a part of drug court. He has also said he was concerned for public safety, but others have been quick to point out that many who were turned away from the program ended up on probation, which is less restrictive.
At the May 20 drug court hearing, social distancing was made easier by how few participants are in the program. One appeared over video after a potential COVID-19 exposure.
A new participant was introduced to all the team members who would be working with him during the program. The number of people he met pretty much doubled the number of actual program participants.
Judge David Reddy asked the first participant from that hearing how she was doing, to which she replied “alive.” He went over with her how she needed to reach out to the support services when she needed them.
“We’re not going to give up on you,” Reddy told her. “Don’t ever think that.”
Still, Reddy that day punished that participant and another for program violations. He sent them to serve a few days in jail.
Langhoff, who has battled addictions to heroin and methamphetamine, said the program has made her realize there are consequences for her actions far better than going to prison did.
“I came out scared and knowing that I was probably going to relapse because I didn’t get the help I needed,” she said.
“Prison isn’t what people think. They think crime and punishment, like that’s going to reform people,” she added. “It’s not. We need more programs like this. We need people to be involved. We need support from our district attorney … (and) the prosecutors. People like them. We need support so that we can help addicts recover.”
She knows that Reddy wants to see those in the program succeed. The same judge who ordered her to prison in late 2015 was clapping for her in drug court.
The room applauded Langhoff for her performance in schooling and for the news of her finding housing for later in the summer. She has been living at a Lake Geneva hotel where she works because that’s what she can afford.
She gets to see Emric three times a week. She got to spend her 30th birthday with him.
“Normally, I probably would have celebrated by getting high,” she said. “Drug court, I mean it really has changed my mindset. I’m able to put my priorities in order. Spending the day with my kid was just what I wanted to do.
“I didn’t drink. I didn’t do anything. I just wanted to spend my night with him. I made him some mac and cheese,” she continued. “And that was my birthday. It was great.”