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CLEAN AND SOBER 15 GRADUATE FROM COUNTY DRUG COURT'S FIRST CLASS.

Byline: Michael Coit Daily News Staff Writer

A yearlong struggle to stay clean and sober turned around David Collier's life and earned him a place in the first graduating class produced by the Ventura County Drug Court.

The Moorpark College student is one of 15 men and women to complete the intensive treatment program launched in April of last year. At age 21, Collier was the youngest in the class.

Ventura Municipal Court Judge Barry Klopfer recognized their efforts during a ceremony Tuesday, formally vacating their guilty pleas and dismissing the misdemeanor narcotics cases that placed them in Drug Court.

``This past year, it's been really hard, but it's been a lot of fun,'' Collier told a Hall of Justice courtroom packed with court officials, attorneys, treatment providers, family and friends. ``I've experienced things that I've never experienced sober before.''

Collier said he struggled to stop drinking alcohol and using methamphetamine. Now he wants to complete college and work in substance abuse counseling.

Klopfer, who led the difficult effort to establish Drug Court, said the commencement was a way to recognize the ``courage, strength and determination'' of the program's initial success stories.

``Against all odds, this group has proved themselves,'' said Klopfer, who noted that completing the program is only a beginning. ``Recovery is not a destination, it's a journey.''

Following the lead of courts in other states, the Ventura County Drug Court offers a way to keep offenses off criminal records for people arrested on misdemeanor narcotics violations that don't include a serious crime.

The Drug Court team has reviewed the cases of 350 people and so far about 90 have been accepted, said Bob Holland, the county Alcohol and Drug Program official who refers cases to Drug Court.

Holland said the 15 graduates from an initial group of 34 demonstrates that intensive recovery programs are effective.

``Who says recovery doesn't work,'' he said. ``There's recovery out there. You've got to look for it, you've got to work hard at it.''

County probation officers recognized the Drug Court participants they worked with, prompting loud applause as graduates described problems and obstacles they overcame to earn a place in the first graduating class.

Klopfer said an important factor in gaining acceptance to the program is a willingness to stay clean and follow the treatment and supervision. The judge noted that several people have turned down offers to enter the program.

Drug Court is designed for people who could face up to a year in jail for being under the influence of a narcotic. There can be no evidence of selling or transporting, or charges of violence or threatened violence.

If accepted, a defendant must plead guilty and sign a contract. Each defendant has an opportunity to back out before being placed on formal probation and entering either an outpatient or residential treatment program.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 22, 1996
Words:473
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