The ceremony took place at the Visalia Convention Center. The graduates are all convicted drug criminals, who have successfully spent the past year and a half overcoming their addictions.
Keynote speaker, Dallas Taylor knows all too well the dangers of heavy drug use. The former drummer of the rock group, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young started using at age 18, and didn't stop until years later, when he says, he hit rock bottom.
Dallas Taylor said, "Had no veins left. I had lost my career. I was one of the most sought after drummers in the world, and I couldn't make a gig."
Taylor shared his story with the 184 men and women, who successfully completed Tulare County's Drug Court. The program allows people to get treatment for their addictions instead of going to prison.
Judge Glade Roper says the benefits are two fold; help addicts better themselves, all while saving county taxpayers 16 million dollars a year.
Judge Glade Roper said, "If we send someone into custody, there's a 75 percent chance they're going to be back with new charges in a year and a half. Recidivism in the drug court is much much lower."
Participants pay 70 dollars each week for treatment. That includes, daily counseling calls, weekly drug tests and group sessions.
"I was ready for a change."
47-year-old Johnnie Andrews of Porterville had been using meth consistently for years. While he lost everything during that time, he says the benefits he's gained back are priceless.
Johnnie Andrews said, "I feel like I've lost myself and this is a chance to get myself, and I just want to stay focused on me."
Thursday's ceremony was filled with stories of struggle and triumph. One graduate even proposed to his girlfriend on stage. And she said yes.