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Drug court plans to graduate first class

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Gwinnett County drug court program will honor its first graduating class on Thursday.

Jeff West, the program's coordinator, said the first class comprises 13 graduates, and their hard work has not gone unnoticed.

Gwinnett's drug court program was launched in October 2004.

"Graduations are the shining moments for drug courts, and this one has been a long time coming," West wrote in an e-mail. "A room full of tear-filled eyes as the stories of success are shared makes an impression on all that are present."

The graduates will be honored at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse on the Square at

6 p.m.

Graduates' names will not be released to the media for the purpose of protecting their anonymity, West said.

Drug court is an 18-to-24-month program for drug addicts who are charged with felony drug possession, West said.

There are 47 participants involved with drug court, and graduation requires more than 260 hours of alcohol and drug treatment, attendance at more than 160 12-step meetings and submission to more than 130 drug and alcohol tests, West said.

The program is predicated on the fact that alcoholics and drug addicts suffer from a disease, West said.

Since the program began, a few participants have given birth to drug-free babies, and the entire group has freed up an estimated $300,000 in jail costs because they were in drug court rather than being incarcerated, West said.

"Judge Billy Ray was the driving force behind creating the drug court," West said. "I am thankful for his vision and the support that we receive from the Superior and State Court (benches)."

Those interested in attending drug court are welcome to apply, but they must meet the program criteria.

That and other information is available at the Web site, www.treatmentcourt.com, or by calling 770-822-8558.