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James Valley Drug and DUI Court shows positives of life, grad says

After his seventh DUI, Bryan Beacom knew he reached his breaking point. But that's in his past, as Beacom, along with three others, graduated Thursday from the James Valley Drug and DUI Court, where the motto is, "Show up, be honest and try." "Pe...

Drug and DUI Court graduate Bryan Beacom speaks to the crowd gathered during the group's celebration Thursday as Judge Gordon Swanson looks on at the Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell. Beacom is one of four people who graduated from the program Thursday afternoon. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)
Drug and DUI Court graduate Bryan Beacom speaks to the crowd gathered during the group's celebration Thursday as Judge Gordon Swanson looks on at the Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell. Beacom is one of four people who graduated from the program Thursday afternoon. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)

After his seventh DUI, Bryan Beacom knew he reached his breaking point.

But that's in his past, as Beacom, along with three others, graduated Thursday from the James Valley Drug and DUI Court, where the motto is, "Show up, be honest and try."

"People don't change until they're forced to and this is the best thing," Beacom said. " ... This is a matter of life or death because had I continued or had I been sent to prison, it wouldn't change my outlook. I would have gone right back to the same things I was doing."

And in Thursday's graduation, Beacom was honest with the small crowd gathered in the third floor of the Davison County Courthouse to celebrate his and others' success. The other three graduates included Dennis Bollack, Kelly Gillis and Mona Stork. Between the four, the estimated total of days sober was just fewer than 2,000.

Beacom is 640 days sober, and he couldn't be happier.

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"I learned how to structure life to live without the alcohol and the addiction. It showed me the positive things I had in my life that I didn't recognize while I was using," he said.

The James Valley Drug and DUI Court was established in October 2013 to help individuals get beyond their drug and alcohol addictions. South Dakota's first Drug Court was founded in 2007 in the Black Hills, and the first Drug Court in the nation was started in 1989 in Miami-Dade County in Florida.

Designed to be an alternative to incarceration for low-risk, but criminal offenders, who are dealing with alcohol or drug addictions, the drug court program uses a combination of supervision and treatment to help its participants. Participants are monitored closely and directly after entering the program, with supervision decreasing as they progress. They also receive counseling from Stepping Stones and the Dakota Counseling Institute. On average, the program lasts 18 months per participant.

Also present at the graduation ceremony was special guest speaker Noreen Plumage. Plumage serves as a statewide drug and DUI court liaison. She congratulated the four new graduates for their success, but also provided several tips to keep in mind as they continue in life.

"You need to make smart decisions. It's very hard to do the right thing in each and every day. That is where you start," Plumage said. "One day at a time and do the next bright thing."

Thursday's four graduates boosted the Drug Court's total to 11 graduates of the program. And for Drug and DUI Court Judge Gordon Swanson and the eight-person Drug Court Team, this is big success.

But it's even a bigger success for newly graduated Beacom.

"They say going to prison is easier, and it is. But nothing we get in our life that's easy is worth it," Beacom said. "Each thing that you have to work for, those are the things that are worth it."

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