Kenneth Reed had hit rock bottom. After nearly a lifetime of struggling with drug addiction and serving time in and out of state prison and county jail, he was again facing charges – this time for possession of methamphetamine.
“I was done. I was in total despair. I was sitting in jail wanting to die. I didn’t want to live the way that I was living,” he said of the time after his arrest on Sept. 20, 2019.
Reed, 45, said he began smoking marijuana at age 15 and then using “heavier drugs” in his 30s. He described his life as “really chaotic” before his arrest. He said he had lost his marriage and his relationship with his three young sons. He often argued with his girlfriend, parents and others close to him because of his drug use. He didn’t have a driver’s license or vehicle, but he managed to hold one and sometimes two jobs.
“I was using drugs every day. I was a functioning addict,” he said.
While Reed was in the Correctional Facility, Douglas County launched a pilot Drug Court program in January 2020. To be eligible, participants must admit to substance use and agree to cessation of use, have pending felony charges, and have no serious or persistent mental illnesses which prohibit participation in substance abuse treatment. If participants successfully complete the program, charges are dismissed.
Reed agreed to be the first participant in the 14-month, four-phase program which provides structure, goal-setting, accountability and support. He entered the program on Feb. 21, 2020. “It was a godsend,” he said.
During the first phase of the program, he was required to attend between six and 10 hours of treatment per week. He attended group and individual therapy in addition to meeting with a peer support specialist. He reported to Drug Court every week. During the second phase, he was required to find a sponsor or mentor, continue drug treatment and obtain full-time employment. He then reported to court every two weeks. Throughout the program, he was subject to frequent, random drug testing.
Treatment courts are designed to step down the structure as participants make progress in their recovery. “It’s a lot of checks and balances, along with accountability and encouragement to do the next right thing,” Drug Court Officer Shannon Bruegge said. “The focus is getting them the best foundation to build a strong recovery.”
Reed relied heavily on support from Bruegge, his therapist Andrea Ott and peer support specialist Chasity Shaffer at DCCCA Inc., and peers in the program. He credits that support as the key to his success. “I think support is a big deal. I never had that kind of support before,” he said. “If I ever felt the need, they would be available any time – day or night.”
He is thankful to be living at a local Oxford Men’s House. The residence provides a stable home for men who are serious about recovering from their addictions to drugs, alcohol or both. He now serves as secretary at the Oxford House. He also has a new network of people from the 12-step Narcotics Anonymous program.
Additionally, he attended a 12-week Healthy Dads program that is offered through Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and earned a completion certificate on Nov. 3, 2020. Jery Marquez, Healthy Dads coordinator, also helped connect him to community resources. “He was very engaged and positive the whole time,” Marquez said.
While in the Drug Court program, he received a driver’s license and purchased a vehicle for $200 and then fixed it on his own. He offers rides to others in the program because he knows how difficult it can be to make appointments by walking, bicycling or catching the bus. About a month ago, he began working with a brick layers union in Kansas City, a job that he enjoys, and he’s paid off old fines. More importantly, Reed said he spends a lot more time with his three boys, ages 7, 9 and 11. They have fun fishing, camping, riding bicycles, bowling and playing sports.
Bruegge is proud of Reed, especially because he entered a new program that was being implemented during the global COVID-19 pandemic. “Talk about a crazy time in the world to get clean and sober,” she said. “I mean for anybody, even those who were not struggling with substance abuse, it was a hard time to just be existing in a world that was so uncertain day to day.”
Reed entered the program with determination, support of loved ones and his faith. “When he came in that first day, his parents had dropped off his things, including a Bible that was on top. This was a foundational piece that he attributes to his recovery - his faith. And having the support of his parents was important,” Bruegge said.
His mom, Diane Reed, described her son as a totally different young man. “He’s back to the Kenny that I really love. I am so happy for him.”
On Friday, May 14, Reed will be the first person to graduate from Drug Court. The charges of two counts of possession of methamphetamine will be dismissed.
“It has been a life-changing experience,” he said, of the Drug Court program. “I’m living my best life. There’s a lot of peace in my life today. It’s not chaotic at all. It’s nice.”
Drug Court is a multi-agency team effort that includes: Douglas County District Court, Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, Defense Counsel, Criminal Justice Services Adult Services, DCCCA, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Lawrence Police Department and community partners. Douglas County District Court Judge B. Kay Huff presides over the specialty court in addition to her regular judicial duties.
The Douglas County Commission approved funding for Drug Court, which has an annual budget of about $416,000 and can accept up to 15 participants. The program currently has 11 participants.
Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said her office considers programs like Drug Court to benefit both defendants and the county.
“This is a tool in our toolbox of alternative programs that we’re really trying to focus on and really take a holistic approach to everyone who comes through the criminal justice system,” Valdez said. “These programs make real differences in the lives of participants and allow us to focus our resources on prosecuting the most serious offenders.”
** Story by Karrey Britt | Douglas County Communications Specialist