Pell City Courthouse (not updated)

The family drug court program New Pathways celebrated its 19th graduation on July 26. This was celebrated as the program’s biggest graduation with nine graduates and the 98th graduate in total.

According to Judge Robert Minor, 187 children have been returned home or been positively affected over the 10 year history of the program.

“I’m just so proud of them, having done this for 10 years, I have become much more educated on issues surrounding addiction,” said Minor. “I have, at least, the intellectual knowledge to understand how difficult it is for these people to leave their addiction.”

Each graduate was invited to come up to the front, receive their diploma and give a speech to those in the program about what the process meant to them.

New Pathways works in partnership with the Department of Human Resources if drug abuse is a reason given for children being taken out of their home. New Pathways works directly with parents struggling with addiction to get them rehabilitated and have their children returned to them.

“We work very hard to address the addiction issue. I love the program because it provides touch points. I see them on a regular basis, or I’m able to address their progress. More so if they just came for drug court,” said Minor.

By signing a contract to be in the program, participants are agreeing to show up weekly to court, take random drug tests and attend drug treatment classes. The entire program takes approximately a year to complete.

After completing the program, drug charges can be dismissed and children, more often than not, are able to return home. Minor said he’s seen the program meaningfully bring a lot of families back together.

“I can’t stay mad at these parents. If I say I love these kids, it means I have to love these parents, I will do anything to help them,” said Minor.

Katelyn Beatty, a family treatment court state coordinator came from Montgomery to attend the ceremony. Beatty’s job is to observe and recommend changes for the drug court process on a state and federal level.

“It brings such emotion, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. It’s great seeing how we can change a family’s life, and the importance of kids going back with their families is huge,” said Beatty.

Many of the graduates said New Pathways was the first program they’ve ever successfully completed, in comparison to rehab or other treatment options for their addiction.

“Being able to see this means everything, because I used to be one of them. I was a drug addict and I almost lost my child. I want to see parents get their children back, because I got my child back,” said Whitney McCluskey, a case manager for New Pathways.

McCluskey also said she knows these people aren’t lost causes, and they do have the capability to overcome their drug addiction. She believes the program is important because these people struggling with addiction get the opportunity to be around others like them, which fosters a positive environment to heal in.

“If you need help in the future, which I think is a likelihood because this is a struggle, we’re here to do anything and everything we can to help you. Some people get scared and are afraid to come back, but the invitation is open. I hope that I’ve proven myself to you,” said Minor to the graduating class.

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