BARABOO, Wis. - Three people in Sauk County celebrated the first day of the rest of their lives Tuesday night, when they became the first-ever graduates of the county's drug court program, designed to divert offenders out of the criminal justice system and into recovery.
Kaitlin Hewitt and married couple Eddie and Cora Hatfield successfully completed the program, 18 months after its inception.
Each participant is expected to commit to 18 to 24 months in the program. On top of weekly court visits, participants are expected to pursue medical treatment, therapy, group meetings and volunteer opportunities.
"We've obviously been looking forward to this day for 18 months," Judge Michael Screnock, who sits behind the bench of the drug court, said.
In September 2015, before the program started, Hewitt turned down the chance for a signature bond to get out of jail immediately. Instead she told her public defender to make sure she couldn't get out of jail, because she knew she had to be in jail, in order go through the drug court program in order to turn her life around.
As for the Hatfields, News 3 first met the couple back in March 2016, as they were going through the program. Eddie Hatfield shared his story of how he ended up in drug court to News 3's Dannika Lewis.
The two grew up in families that had long histories of substance abuse and the couple dealt with the issue themselves.
"We both grew up in a home where drugs and alcohol were present on a daily basis," Cora Hatfield said. "In my family, it was cool to do drugs together."
Cora's life, in particular, has been profoundly affected by drug use.
Her brother, Herb Grosenheider, is serving a four-year prison sentence after delivering a batch of heroin that led to the overdose deaths of Richard Maurer, 55, and Diane Rogers, 51.
Rogers was the mother of Grosenheider and Cora. It was the virtual presence of Grosenheider, conspicuously absent from Cora's life over the past year, that led to one of most emotional moments of Tuesday's ceremony at the Sauk County Courthouse.
Grosenheider was allowed to teleconference in to the ceremony to congratulate Cora, causing her to break down in tears of joy.
"When they asked us who we wanted to invite tonight, we invited Eddie's grandma and his sister, you know, I didn't have any family," Cora Hatfield said. "To see my brother there, telecomming in from prison, it was breathtaking, it was the best thing in the world."
Cora Hatfield has been spending her time in the program educating the public about the dangers of heroin.
There's another reason why graduating from drug court was so special for the Hatfields: their 19-month-old daughter, Emma.
"We didn't want our daughter to have a life like (we did)," Cora Hatfield said.
For Eddie Hatfield, being able to be with Emma helped make the long process "well worth it."
"(Drug court) allowed me to be a parent, instead of my daughter growing up (with) me sitting in prison," he said.
To learn more about the Sauk County Adult Drug Court, visit the county's website.
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