Possible Expansion of Drug Treatment Program

November 13, 2008 9:53:49 PM PST
Last week California voters soundly defeated a proposition that would have offered alternative sentencing and treatment to non-violent drug offenders. But one alternative program for female drug offenders may be expanding statewide.28-year old Mary Vargas is packing up and moving out. For the last year she's been living inside Family Foundations of Fresno along with her two year old daughter Melissa and her seven year old daughter Marina. Family Foundations is an alternative sentencing program for female offenders with drug histories. The program saves the state money in prison costs and it reduces stress on families keeping young children with their moms.

Community Coordinator Ahmad Bahrami said, "So you're not splitting up the family ... you're not damaging those bonds, but they're able to get intensive treatment in these programs because what they're able to do is get treatment for substance abuse, they're getting nutrition classes, parenting classes, counseling classes, childcare services."

Mary started using meth when she was 14. She got into trouble with the law shortly after her youngest daughter was born. When she first heard about the Family Foundations program she figured she'd do a 90 day stint and go back to her old life.

Mary Vargas said, "About 4 months into the program, I finally started taking things seriously and started taking a look at myself on the inside. I realized the life that I had was no life at all. "

As an incentive to get well the moms at Family Foundations keep their young children with them while they work their program. The kids are well taken care of while the moms attend classes. However older children like 11 year old Alexis and 8 year old Donald have been separated from their mom for a year.

Alexis said, "It's really hard to live without your mom for so long."

Donald said, "She kisses you on the cheek when you go to school ... you missed her doing that."

Mary's husband Donald Sr. says the year long wait has been tough but worth it.

Donald Vargas Sr. said, "Very happy to have her back I'm also proud of her for everything she's accomplished. So now I'm just looking forward to living a better life."

Mary will have to check in with a parole agent for the next year but she has four little reminders why she now needs to stay clean and sober.

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