Drug Rehab Court seeks help

Graduate goes public to be example for addicts; magistrate cites court’s success

Housing and job opportunities in the community are needed for the Drug Rehabilitation Court’s continued success, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said at a graduation ceremony on Tuesday, 22 March.

Three graduates brought to 43 the number of participants who have completed the programme since it was formalised in October 2007.

“We are a model court in terms of the success we have achieved,” the magistrate said, noting that similar courts are run in the US and Canada.

Cayman’s success is due to the extraordinary efforts of the people enrolled in the programme, who are referred to as clients, and the team of professionals who work with them throughout their recovery, she said.

But another essential ingredient is the support of the community, the magistrate emphasised.

She cited Digicel for providing cell phones and credit the drug court clients need as they take responsibilty for initiating contact with counsellors, social workers and the drug court officer; Rotary Club of Grand Cayman for sponsoring graduates’ trophies; Rotary Club Sunrise for underwriting rewards of movie tickets, book and restaurant certificates as clients progress through the phases of the programme.

The magistrate thanked Jean Solomon from the Department of Employment Relations for her efforts in helping clients find work and Bud Volinshky from the Hope for Today Foundation, which operates two halfway houses for recovering addicts. The magistrate called these temporary residences “a vital link in the continuum of care”.

The drug rehab court is not a soft option or a quick fix, she emphasised. No one has made it through the regimen in less than a year.

But once a person achieves sobriety after years of struggling, his or her achievement must be recognised, the magistrate said. “If they fulfil their role and get sober, we must step forward with housing and jobs,” she said. She asked people in the community to “buy in” to what the Drug Rehab Court is doing.

Clients do not graduate until they achieve sustained sobriety, stabilised housing and secured employment or a volunteer or study programme.

James Michael Ebanks is one of the latest graduates and the first to be publicly identified. He later explained that people knew him as a drug addict; he wanted to be an example to other addicts by showing them, “Where you are is where I was.”

Mr. Ebanks asked to be in a Caymanian Compass photograph with the chief magistrate and drug court partners. “I want other drug users to say, ‘But that’s James Michael. If he could give it up, I can give it up.’ That would be the biggest encouragement to them,” he said.

Mr. Ebanks thought every graduate should be proud to be in a picture with the drug court team and partners to mark what they have achieved.

During the ceremony, he offered a prayer, giving thanks for the mysterious way in which God had used the drug rehab court to help him do the right thing and help him in his recovery.

Another graduate expressed gratitude for the programme and said he now hoped to give back to the community.

The third graduate counted the number of years she could have spent in prison and the number of times she had tried to quit her drug use. This time, although she entered the programme kicking and fighting, “Something clicked…. I met people who showed me love and care that I didn’t know before.”

Ms Solomon urged other drug court clients to use the ceremony as an example to continue their journey to recovery.

Catherine Guilbard, court coordinator, outlined the phases of the treatment programme and thanked the partners for their cooperation and collaboration.

Lori McRae, president of Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, said the club was pleased to participate, calling the drug rehab court a very worthy programme.

Michael Levitt, president of Sunrise Rotary Club, promised the drug court would be on his club’s agenda for the foreseeable future.

Company representative Rob Moorhead said Digicel understood how important it was for drug court clients to communicate with their counsellors and report to the drug court officer.

He hoped the phones and credits would be useful as they worked to achieve their goals.