For many, it is not their first experience with some kind of rehab or attempt at kicking substance abuse. However, graduates say they have never felt as confident about staying sober and out of jail as they do now.
“This is the first time I have really seen that the problem is not the drug or the alcohol, it is me,” said Paul Brock, a Leslie County native in jail for drug crimes. “I see it so clearly now that I have to take care of my own addiction.”
SAP uses a therapeutic community model, in which the participants are given leadership and mentoring roles based on their dedication to the program.
Edward Wurster held the role of community chairman during his time in the program. He said the responsibility was a big part of the life-changing experience.
Wurster’s mother and father have seen their son come out of treatment before and never trusted that it has worked. His father, also named Edward, was so skeptical he contemplated not making the trip from their Cincinnati home.
However, both parents said this time they see and hear changes they have never noticed in the past.
“This has been a phenomenal program for Eddie,” Sylvia Wurster said while wiping away happy tears. “You can tell that he find a confidence in himself that we haven’t seen. It has been so rewarding for him. He has played games before when he was doing a program, but not this time.”
Brock, who entertained the audience with a modified version of the intro music to the “Beverly Hillbillies,” has a wife and three boys at home. He said becoming a better family member is an important part of what the program teaches.
Nine of the graduates were paroled Thursday following the ceremony but were lingering for a while to be with the others who are still awaiting their graduation day. For those still in the program, it means the will have to assume new responsibilities.
“They all had leadership roles, and they give us hope and strength,” said Joshua Shelby, who has been in the program for more than six months. “They have been the ones we have looked to. Now, it is our turn to be leaders.”
Boyle and Mercer County fiscal courts signed on to participate in the state-sanctioned SAP program earlier this year.
In August, the program’s original director Terry Stevens, a former chaplain at the jail, terminated his contract when questions were raised by the state about whether he met the requirements for education and experience.
The counties moved quickly to ensure that the program would remain certified, hiring the Irvine-based company West Care, which already operates SAP programs in Pike and Floyd counties.
Boyle Jailer Barry Harmon said the program will continue to get stronger.
“This is just the first of many of these,” said Harmon. “These men are going to show that this is a good program. They have the discipline and accountability in a way that they have never had.”
Kevin Pangburn, director of mental health for the state Department of Corrections, spoke at the graduation ceremony.
Pangburn said the programs have been working everywhere they have been established, in part because once inmates are released, there is continuity of care built into their parole process.
Pangburn said the success of SAP programs are the shift toward treatment for the overwhelming numbers of people in jail or prison because of drug- and alcohol-related crimes. In 2004 there were less than 500 SAP beds across the state; now, there are more than 2,600.
The graduates of the SAP program are Paul Blackburn, Andrew Blake, Paul Brock, Ryan Daugherty, Darrel Esteppe, Heath Randall, Eric Reeves, Keith Norton, Clayton Viers and Edward Wurster.