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12 graduate from Felony Adult Drug Court

Jason Payne could barely hold back tears as he accepted his graduation diploma, the 18 months of patience and hard work he spent remaining sober finally paying off. As he handed a rose to his wife, Jacoba Payne, who acted as one of his main supporters during his recovery, the tears flowed freely from the joy of the occasion.

“When I came to this program, I didn’t realize the journey it was going to create for me,” Payne said before the attendees of the graduation ceremony at the Troup county Juvenile Courthouse. “I’m so glad to [have] graduated and to be clean and sober.”

Payne was one of 12 individuals who graduated from the Felony Adult Drug Court program Tuesday following a year and a half recovery period. Only four were able to attend the ceremony in person.

The Felony Adult Drug Court program is offered by the Troup County Accountability Court and is intended to offer sentencing alternatives to offenders whose offenses are related to drug addiction. This program only serves a certain number of defendants and is very selective, according to the Troup County Government website.

The program is an 18-month minimum program based on effort in the areas of education, treatment and lifestyle changes. Participants are required to attend several meetings weekly, including an intensive counseling program, twice weekly drug tests, twice weekly court attendance and must obtain employment and/or GED. Requirements are lessened as participants achieve good standing and demonstrate success in other areas.

Several speakers spoke at the ceremony, relaying their own battles with drug addiction and the importance of second chances.

Kevin Goodson, the president of the board of directors for Accountability Troup, Inc., shared his own experience and gave graduates advice on accepting help.

“Four years ago, I was at Sam Walker facing four felony accounts,” Goodson said. “At that point, I realized I needed to change my life and turn it over to God, so I started the process there. I was fortunate enough to go to Teen Challenge for a year and as of Aug. 1 I will have completed my first offenders’ felony probation, so I’m graduating with you today.”

Through prayer, Goodson found his way to sobriety, he said, and he encouraged graduates to follow the same path.

“I encourage the folks who are graduating here to say yes to God for a while, to reverse that feeling of take, take, take and give for a bit,” he said. “It changes your life big time, it truly does.”

For graduates like Payne, the program doesn’t just help them regain sobriety, but also helps them build bonds among each other that smoothens their road to recovery.

Judge Michael Key commended Payne’s mentorship skills among the program’s participants, noting his dedication to their needs on top of his own.

“I think the thing that impressed us the most was the friendships you developed through the program and how much you want to see others succeed,” Key said. “Jason has been [dedicated] to sobriety, and he’s been a hard worker in all areas of his life.”

Key voiced his pride on all the graduates’ success, thanking members of the drug court team for their service.