Walking a fine line
Ropes course aids in treatment of juvenile drug addiction
Published: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 12:35 a.m.
Using ropes and a little trust, addictions counselor Nathaniel Gates and incoming Circuit Judge Ysleta McDonald and others are hoping to make a difference in some kids' lives.
Last year, McDonald participated for the first time in a ropes course exercise that is a regular part of the curriculum for the county's juvenile drug court program.
Climbing through an obstacle course of ropes and beams and helping others complete the exercise is meant to build an individual's trust, said Gates, who is involved with the juvenile drug court program.
"A lot of the kids have problems with trust . . . trusting adults, trusting other kids, trusting kids from different neighborhoods. The ropes course was providing trust, being able to depend on other people and being depended on," Gates said.
McDonald said, "For example, when I did the high beam, one of the kids was holding the rope. They were, in a sense, responsible for my safety."
The course is just one step in the county's juvenile drug court program. Like its predecessor the Alachua County adult drug court, it is meant to help people whose legal problems apparently stem from substance abuse by treating the addiction.
Started in 2000, juvenile drug court underwent a makeover and started up again in the fall of 2003.
McDonald described the program as long and intense. "They basically have to work their way through it,'' she said about the kids who participate.
Nine kids are now in the program. All have been referred to the juvenile justice system because of run-ins with the law and participate in the program as part of their probation.
They must progress through a series of phases that involve counseling and drug screenings. Compared to the original juvenile drug court, counseling in this program now includes more group therapy as well as substance abuse therapy, McDonald said.
Gates, who is with Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, offers group therapy to the kids. They also receive counseling in self-esteem and anger management. In addition, Gates performs curfew checks, makes sure those in the program are attending school, watches their grades and verifies others are working.
The program, Gates said, is a team effort involving the courts, prosecutors, public defenders and the school system. He said he is hoping to see someone graduate from the program early this year.
Before these kids were in juvenile drug court, Gates said, "None of them were working. None of them were in school. Every kid that's in my program now is free from any drug use. Right now all of them are clean."
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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