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Brittany Lawonn, Published January 29 2009

Budget woes threaten drug court

Drug court grad says 'life worth it'

Scott Salverson started using drugs when he was 14.

Now 40, the Moorhead man became the first person to graduate from Clay County’s drug court program Wednesday.

“I had every reason in the world to quit but couldn’t no matter how hard I tried,” Salverson told a packed courtroom attending his graduation. “I couldn’t just choose to not use anymore. I didn’t have a choice … I needed drugs to survive.”

Salverson’s said he now has a good job, a baby to raise and an appreciation for life.

“I may not have been able to get back everything I lost when I was using, but the things I have done in recovery make my life worth it,” he said, his voice breaking as he spoke.

Judge Lisa Borgen called Salverson’s success a perfect example of the reasons for drug court, despite the possibility that the program could be cut because of Minnesota’s budget problems.

“Who would have ever thought that the prosecutor would be here clapping for a defendant that they tried to put into jail,” she said.

Clay County’s program began roughly 14 months ago and has room for 20 people. The program is designed to provide an alternative for people whose serious substance abuse repeatedly brings them in contact with the legal system. Becker County’s program has room for 10 individuals and recently had its first graduate, Borgen said.

Borgen said she is very worried the program could lose its funding, acknowledging it is expensive and it requires money being put up front.

“This is not something that people think is really high priority, but yet I say if you really knew what we were doing you would see this is high priority because it does in the long run save everybody money,” she said.

Salverson said he decided to turn his life around before entering the program, but said it provided him with the needed motivation and direction.

“Drug court taught me how to be accountable,” he said.

Completing the drug court process is not easy, but seeing people succeed after being given the chance is really rewarding, Borgen said.

“In the criminal justice system we do very few things that really make you feel great and this is one of them so that’s why I want to keep doing it,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541