Empowering Change: The Success of the Oneida County Drug Court Expansion Program

Substance use disorders can lead to legal concerns. Where treatment is needed, innovative approaches are crucial. In Oneida County, New York, a groundbreaking ini­tiative has emerged – the Oneida County Drug­ Court Expansion Program. This program, led by a team of colleagues at Helio Health, offers a lifeline to individuals struggling with substance use, bridging the gap between legal obligations, and receiving necessary treatment.

Andrea LoParco, the program’s director, emphasizes the need for this type of program, “What we’ve found over time was that there was a number of setbacks people would go through on their path to graduation. This program sweeps in and helps them identify issues before they become critical, and we help them find a solution and smooth the road to graduation.”

With the support of a grant from SAMSHA, Helio Health is able to take a proactive stance within the drug court system. Through a multi-track model, the program can tailor interventions to individual needs, providing case management and peer support services.

The foundation of this initiative lies in the wide range of targeted services provided to this population. From addressing legal issues to facilitating access to housing, resources for food insecurity, transportation, and employment, the team can take a holistic and individualized approach to case management based on the client’s level of need.

By actively engaging participants and anticipating potential setbacks, the team can intervene early, minimizing setbacks to individuals’ progress in drug court. The team includes a peer specialist in recovery themselves, who engages with participants by doing things like attending meetings with them and being someone whom they can turn to when they need support.

The impact of the program is evident in the stories of its graduates. Individuals like Alden B. and Josh C. share the influence that this program and its team have had on their lives. From reclaiming their independence to rebuilding relationships and envisioning brighter futures, their journeys are testaments to­­ the program’s success.

Alden B. shares how this program has affected his life, “I was looking at a lot of time in jail, like 3 years, but this changed my life. I saved my house thanks to this program. I’m paying my bills. I can see clearly. I’m back to myself.”

Empowerment is a key piece of this program. Participants are empowered to have agency in their recovery journey. By providing resources, education, and continued support, the program empowers individuals to reclaim control of their lives and pursue lasting change.

A large part of recovery is having opportunities to connect with others who are in recovery, to build relationships and find social activities they enjoy helping individuals continue to feel confident and connected in their sobriety. This is why another piece of the program is Pro-Social Activities, including activities like pumpkin painting, picnics, and kickball tournaments. These events not only help participants build connections and create an opportunity to have fun but also include educational elements.

Josh C. echoes this, “Helio Health’s program helped me become independent and continue to live each day sober. They gave me the tools to continue on with life rather than what I was doing,” highlighting the impact of having this type of support system available.

By bridging the gap between drug court and treatment, this program creates a holistic approach to recovery. As the Drug Court Expansion Program in Oneida County continues to evolve, its impact will go far beyond courtroom walls. It serves as an outlet of hope and healing for individuals struggling with substance use disorders, showing that recovery is possible with the right support system in place. Through dedication, innovation, and compassion, the program paves the way for brighter futures and healthier communities.

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