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JULIAN — It was a day to celebrate.

“Whatever the goal is that got you here today, this is just the start of that and we’re happy to hear the stories you’ll share with us here today and we’d like to hear the stories on down the road of the successes you’ll have, and this is the beginning of a really bright future,” said guest speaker West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead.

Approximately 150 people gathered at Waterways in Julian to celebrate 13 graduates of Lincoln and Boone County’s adult, juvenile and family treatment courts.

“In the beginning, the idea was that we could help keep people out of jail,” said Circuit Judge William Thompson. “After doing it for a year or two, we realized that this was more than keeping people out of jail. This is keeping people alive.”

Family treatment court originated as a pilot program started in 2019 to help support families affected by substance use disorder. The Boone program is funded via a federal grant, while the Supreme Court has funding from the McKesson opioid settlement to establish 10 courts.

Jesse and Tessa Lusk have a 3-year-old son, Abel, who accompanied them to the stage to receive their diplomas.

“They were focused on getting their son back into their custody as quickly as possible,” said Judge Thompson.

The Lusk family were reunited in March.

The couple are both employed, have secured a home for their family and are a combined 558 days “clean,” according to Thompson.

“Jesse began to take pride in working hard for his family and is enjoying the good things that recovery is bringing them. Tessa is part of the recovery community and has helped newcomers entering family treatment court,” Thompson added.

Jayden Cook, 17, will graduate from Scott High School next week and will graduate a year early.

Prior to his success, he spent time on home confinement and spent time in the Donald R. Kuhn Juvenile Center. He entered a long-term treatment program and served as a mentor to others and was considered, “the best student the teachers had,” according to Thompson.

Cook said there were many obstacles in his journey to where he is today. He is employed and will enlist in the U.S. Army this summer.

“When you did drugs for so long and you drank for so long and you have those withdrawals, it was one of the hardest things to overcome early on in the process,” Cook said. “I was away from home and in a treatment facility for over eight months. Being away from my family and battling it on my own was challenging.”

Cook said distancing himself from people and places that were negative influences was key.

“I had to take a big step back,” he said. “No, I had to take a leap. I told my mom, I’m creating a new Facebook account and I am keeping people who aren’t good for me away.”

He said that for others — regardless of age — who are struggling with addiction, accepting the fact that you need help is step one.

“Accept the fact that you need it,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you will relapse. You have to accept the fact that you are not in control of your addiction and that the addiction is controlling you.”

Graduates receive support via a multitude of services and programs provided by agencies that serve southern West Virginia.

For assistance regarding substance abuse, call or text Help4WV for free to talk to a counselor at 844-435-7498.

Graduates include:

Boone County Adult Drug Court

Scottie Likens

Brandon Blevins

Deborah Davis

Lincoln County Adult Drug Court

Clinton Maynard

Amy Porter

Justina Holley

Jeremy Vance

Family Treatment Court

Chalsey White

Jessica Williams

Jesse Lusk

Tessa Lusk

Juvenile Treatment Court

Jayden Cook

Cody Holeston

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

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