More than 200 recovering addicts graduate from Tulare County Drug Court

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The largest group of recovering addicts graduated Monday night from Tulare County Adult Drug Court. (KFSN)

The largest group of recovering addicts graduated Monday night from Tulare County Adult Drug Court.

This isn't your average graduation. Robes aren't worn and tassels aren't turned. But for Tracy Leal, this day is just as important to her as getting a degree. Leal started drinking and abusing meth after her marriage fell apart. She abandoned her kids and lived on the streets for years.

"I slept in people's backyards. I slept in the orchards. Early in the morning I would get up and bathe in the canals," said Leal, a recovering addict.

Almost 20 years later, her life is back on track. She said it's only because of the drug court.

"The program works. And when people really want to get help, they don't want to go to jail anymore. They want to get some help so they can move on with their life," said Hon. Jennifer Shirk of the Tulare County Superior Court.

Shirk sentences people into drug court when the offender is ready to get help. The addict has to stay sober for one year, meet with the judges several times a month and pay for the program themselves before they can walk the stage.

"This is just the end of them coming and seeing us on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It's not at all the end of their recovery. It can't be," said Hon. Gary Johnson of the Tulare County Superior Court.

Only 40 percent of the addicts who sign up make it to this day. They have another six months to go after graduation.

"If this was cancer, this level of success would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. Look, if you believe addiction to be a disease, a public health success like this is stunning," said keynote speaker Mike Doughty.
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