Former drug addict finds new life with help from Webster County Drug Treatment Court

MARSHFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Webster County Drug Treatment Court joins more than 4,000 treatment court programs nationwide in celebrating National Drug Court Month.

The principle is simple.

Rather than allowing people with years of addiction issues and criminal records to continue to navigate the court system and be sent back to prison, how about creating a drug treatment court where individuals have the possibility of obtaining supervised treatment, repairing their lives, reconnecting with their families and finding a long-term recovery?

This is an important concept given that most criminal acts can in one way or another be attributed to drugs.

“I would say of all the crimes I prosecute every day, drugs are a major element in 95 percent of everything that’s charged,” Webster County District Attorney Ben Berkstresser said.

Webster County Drug Treatment Court began in 2004 and currently has 16 registrants.

Not everyone succeeds in overcoming their addiction.

“The pass rate statewide is about 50 percent, and I think we’re about that average when it comes to completing the program,” Berkstresser said. “I wish it was higher, but I consider it gives 50% of those people a chance at a new life, and even the 50% who fail are usually affected by the program anyway. law enforcement will tell you that they are easier to work with and that we are not here to hurt or punish them all the time, we care about them and want to protect them.

Berkstresser is very familiar with one of Webster County’s success stories.

Amanda Brake, 39, is a mother of two teenage girls and CNA in a nursing home. But on her Facebook page, she recently posted before and after pictures of how her meth addiction turned her into a different person, which you can see in the attached video.

Now a resident of Buffalo, Missouri, Amanda grew up in Marshfield and started using methamphetamine at age 17.

“I was just hanging out with the wrong crowd,” she said. “I was trying to be cool.”

But meth is a highly addictive drug, and Amanda would add Xanax pills to her abuse. She would be arrested more than 20 times with four separate trips to prison, not only for drugs, but for supporting her habit by stealing.

“I would go to Walmart and take whatever the dope wanted that day,” Amanda recalled. “He would give me a list like a $500 shampooer, trampolines and lots of tools. I’d put them in the cart and get out. I had an old receipt from before in my hand and I walked away with this.

On Wednesday, Amanda revisited the old Webster County Jail in the basement of the courthouse, which she once called home for five months. Now that there is a new jail across the street in the modern Justice Center, the old jail has been stripped of its beds, bathroom and security apparatus, leaving only exposed pipes and cleaning equipment lying around.

But Amanda remembers it well.

“Horrible memories,” she said. “Just being here, feeling hopeless that there was nothing left for my life after that. Just defeated.

A nearby elevator that takes inmates to the prison also brought back memories as Amanda successfully escaped from prison in 2018.

“I had been arrested and drugged when they took me to the cell,” Amanda recalled. “I had been dressed and reserved, but before they got me down in the elevator, I used my elbow to press the downstairs button. When the door opened, I threw my mat and everything at the jailer and ran away. I was out for two days before they apprehended me. They weren’t happy at all, and the lady who was working when I started running was brought back to help stop me when they caught up to me. It wasn’t a good decision, but I never would have made that choice if I had been sane.

Berkstresser knew Amanda well as he had been her defense attorney before becoming a county attorney. So he had dealt with her from both sides of the aisle.

“Amanda had been a client before I became a prosecutor, and I found her charming with an infectious personality,” he said. “But after I became a prosecutor and saw some of the things she was involved in? It was scary. She was a very scary person to me because I listened to prison phone conversations and talked to people who had participated in the criminal activities she was involved in. After her last accusation, I had told Amanda and her attorney that we had done everything we could and the only place we could all be safe, including her, would be at the Department of Corrections.

So what was the turning point?

“I was incarcerated in Webster County and my two little sisters arrived after being arrested,” Amanda explained. “I had been there for a month at that point, and when I saw them and what they looked like, it opened my eyes because I knew I had to be a better example for them and the rest of them. my family. I wrote a letter to the prosecutor and asked for help.

“And with great reluctance, I allowed him to apply,” Berkstresser said.

Even though drug treatment court isn’t easy, this decision saved Amanda’s life. The intensive rehabilitation program lasts approximately two years.

“The physical side is actually easier to do,” Berkstresser said of drug withdrawal. “Because you are preventing them from having access to the substance. Then you try to instill in them the capacity to make decisions to make sobriety choices instead of making relapse choices. So they really have to dig in and do the hard work, which involves a lot of counseling and therapy.

“It’s about understanding why you’re like this and what caused it,” Amanda said. “Then they teach you not to be that person anymore.”

What if there hadn’t been the drug treatment court?

“I would probably be dead,” Amanda replied. “Or in jail. And jail doesn’t help a drug addict. The prosecutor saw something in me that I hadn’t seen myself in several months, and I’m just grateful for that. And the rest of the team has become like family. I will love them all forever.

“She has been a shining light both for the treatment court but also in the community,” added Berkstresser. “She has done all the work to get up and be an example for those who are in these circumstances. She gives me strength to keep doing my job for a few days because when I see people going through the system again and again, she gives me hope that you can succeed.

Why did she want to share her story?

“I think everyone should know there is help out there,” she replied. “And as addicts, we’re not all lost causes.”

And what about fears of relapse after four years of sobriety?

“That doesn’t come to mind,” Amanda said. “I have joy from within. I don’t feel defeated. I feel like there is hope, and I have a purpose with a great support system with my drug court team and my church family, my mother and my daughters. I have made a better life for myself and I intend to keep it.

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