BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The Benton County Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court held its annual graduation ceremony Friday night.
It’s an intensive program to reduce recidivism among veterans and substance-addicted, non-violent offenders with criminal histories. It’s the 13th ceremony since it was founded in 2001. In 2013, a Veterans Treatment was added and has served 26 veterans.
“It made me realize that I had much more of a problem than i thought it did and that I needed help that I never realized i needed,” said Jonni Tuttle, a graduate from the Benton County Drug Court.
Tuttle says she was once at her lowest point. “I have been battling addiction for at least 15 years and in the fall of 2015, I found myself pregnant.” Two years later, she’s celebrating her achievements.
“Drug court is not easy, it’s very busy but it can change your life about wanting to change and getting your life back they give you all of the tools and resources and help guide you back on that right path,” Tuttle said.
There are 97 drug court graduates and 8 veteran graduates in a program that’s grown exponentially in the past years. Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Chief Justice John “Dan” Kemp addressed the graduates to honor this year’s successful participants.
“No matter what we do for somebody, they have to make a commitment to want to help themselves. And when we can make that connection which is what really a lot of these high accountability and high intense programs do, it finally helps them click the switch,” said Benton County Circuit Judge Thomas Smith.
Judge Smith says giving these people the opportunity to change their lives takes a lot of work, something Kenneth Perkins knows all too well after struggling to stay clean after he was released from prison.
“The light bulb went off and by them still having their hand out there and not giving up on me gave me integrity after i realized that gave me integrity to try to give it a chance and i grabbed a hold of their hand and ran with it and i got almost two year of sobriety,” Perkins said.
Making all the hard work worth it for themselves and those around them.