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First graduate of Douglas County Women's Diversion program says it saved her life

Thursday, May 2, 2019 - 4:40pm

For the first time since she can remember, 23-year-old Shyanne Smith is looking forward to the future.  “I never thought that I would be able to live clean and be happy, but I am,” she said.

Smith will mark her one-year anniversary May 7 of living clean after drug and alcohol addiction, and on May 14, she will be the first graduate of the Douglas County Women’s Substance Use Disorder Prosecutor-Led Diversion and Treatment program. Her criminal charges will be dismissed, and she will have a clean slate.

The program began in April 2018 and has been funded with $110,000 from Douglas County’s Criminal Justice Services budget in both 2018 and 2019. Five women are currently participating in the program, including Smith.

“This program has given me a second chance at life. I would be a felon if it wasn’t for this program. It literally saved my life,” she said, during an interview at First Step at Lake View in Lawrence, where she received inpatient and outpatient treatment for substance use through DCCCA.Shyanne Smith is the first graduate of the Douglas County Women's Substance Use Disorder Prosecutor-Led Diversion and Treatment program.

As a child, Smith said she was placed in the foster care system because her parents were addicts. Her mother died by suicide when she was 5 years old. After aging out of the foster care system, Smith married at a young age. “When we got divorced, it threw me off track. I dropped out of college and then everything just kind of hit me at once. I started my addiction,” she said.

At first, she said her addiction was alcohol and pills, but then it became heroin.

Smith said her addiction to heroin continued for about five years until last May when she was pulled over by a law enforcement officer and arrested. She was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and trafficking contraband to the Douglas County Correctional Facility. She was four months pregnant at the time and trying to wean herself from her addictions. 

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I’m pregnant and I’m going to have my baby in jail.’ It was scary. It really was,” she said. 

Soon thereafter, a Sheriff’s Office reentry case manager informed Smith about the diversion and treatment program and said she qualified for the program, if she wanted to accept it. The program aims to help non-violent female offenders by providing support services aimed at addressing substance abuse, mental health, housing and employment. “I’d never been to treatment. It was just kind of scary because it was all new to me,” she said. 

She entered the program May 25. The program included inpatient care at First Step at Lake View for 28 days and outpatient care in a sober living house for 90 days. Since then, she has attended therapy group sessions and a Narcotics Anonymous support group. Smith also attended monthly meetings with District Attorney Charles Branson who monitored her progress along with others. “He was awesome and just wants the best for everybody,” she said.

She became a mother on Oct. 16. “They say, ‘If you stop an addiction, you typically start another one.’ My daughter is my addiction now. She’s my everything,” Smith said.

Smith credits her DCCCA therapist for giving her the support she needed. “I don’t have a lot of trust in people and I self-sabotage a lot. My counselor had to get me out of that. If it wouldn’t have been for her, I don’t think I would have made it. She is the sweetest, nicest person, but she will call you out, and that’s what I needed.”

“I had never really thought about anything from my past. I just pushed it down and then it got all brought back up and the program taught me how to deal with it and cope with it in the correct way. It made me look forward to my future instead of just living in the now.”

Jill Rohde, Substance Use Disorder counselor at First Step at Lake View, described the program as very demanding and said she was proud of Shyanne for completing it.

“I am proud to have been on Shyanne’s team through this process. She did not give up when things got tough. She was able to practice taking care of herself instead of taking herself down. This is a crucial part of recovery. That is a hard lesson for many of us and this program expects that of its participants,” Rohde said.


BY KARREY BRITT | Communications Specialist 


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Karrey Britt, Communications Specialist