At the time of its creation, the Treatment Court in Gallatin County was the first of its kind in Montana. Now, more than 20 years later, it's helping people with alternative sentencing and staying sober.
“You have to be happy living sober. If you are not happy living sober what's the point,” said Jonathan Vander Sande, a Treatment Court program participant.
Vander Sande is weeks away from his graduation from the program; he has made it through 17 of the 18 months the program requires.
“At first it was hard but once you get into the groove of it, it really mellows out—it just becomes a part of your life,” said Vander Sande.
Treatment Court was established in 1999 in Gallatin County and offers a way for people to use this treatment after their conviction.
“It's great to see these people as they work themselves through the process. Some of them do have hiccups along the way and they work through those,” said Court Coordinator Andrea Lower.
Over the course of a year, they have an average of 12 graduations; the program is able to take in around 25 participants at a time. Lower says that Covid-19 threw in some hurdles but they were able to have 10 graduations so far in 2021.
The participants have mental health and addiction counseling as well as community service in order to keep them on track to sobriety and graduation.
“In the short time that I have been doing Treatment Court there are new people that come in all the time based on their sentencing orders,” said Lower.
After countless court dates to keep up on accountability, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for Vander Sande, weeks away from his own graduation.
“Getting sober there is a lot that goes behind it but I think it's a good first step to get 18 months sober because getting that first 18 months sober is the first part about it,” Vander Sande said.
The biggest takeaway for Vander Sande as he completes the program, and his biggest piece of advice for others who may find themselves needing help, is this:
“Getting that initial sobriety is huge—whether or not if you like the program or if it works for you,” he said.