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Program creates hope, changes lives

By Staff | Dec 22, 2008

A celebration ceremony was held Tuesday in Fairmont for drug court graduates Melissa Willette of Fairmont (left to right), Greg and Trinidad Bruckhoff of Minnesota Lake, Miles Bullerman of Wells and Tyler Neal of Delavan.

‘Tis the season associated with miracles.

If you don’t believe they’re possible, just ask Martin County District Court Judge Robert Walker.

“We’ve seen five miracles happen to five different people,” the judge told an audience assembled inside a courtroom on Tuesday afternoon.

It was part of a graduation ceremony for five participants of the Faribault-Martin-Jackson Multi-County Substance Abuse program.

It also marked drug court’s two-year anniversary.

Four of the graduates were from Faribault County and Judge Douglas Richards was on hand to offer his congratulations.

Tyler Neal of Delavan says he was considered a ‘long shot’ to complete the program.

“I thought it was ridiculous and I wasn’t going to comply,” he says. “I had a real poor attitude.”

Like a typical graduation, family and friends were in attendance and refreshments were served in the rotunda area following a half-hour program.

The graduates posed for pictures in front of a cake and later talked with well-wishers.

“I would have been going to the big house if it hadn’t been for drug court,” says Greg Bruckhoff of Minnesota Lake. “This gave me a different option. It was a tough road but it was something I thoroughly enjoyed.”

It was the fifth such ceremony that has seen 11 people complete the 18-month program.

Those enrolled in drug court must have a substance-abuse problem. In addition, they must plead guilty to the drug-related charge they were arrested for.

Participants are charged $1,500 but are able to pay half of the cost in incentives and awards.

Trinidad Bruckhoff, Greg’s wife, was all smiles. Talking with people in the rotunda she would take deep breaths, admitting to some she was nervous.

“This is the first day of the rest of my life. It’s been very tough,” she says. “Now I’m going into the real world. I’m going to be part of it, but now there’s no strings attached.”

Trinidad, too, overcame a battle of lifetime drug abuse. She took her first drink when she was 12. Then it was marijuana, before escalating to hard drugs like cocaine, crank and ‘ice.’

She eventually would lose her children because of her use and selling of drugs.

“Getting high became more important than my family,” she says.

Greg’s parents are caring for the couple’s two girls, ages 4 and 5.

Barbara Bruckhoff says she and her husband Brian did everything they could to get help for the couple. She says drug court was the last option.

“It’s going to be a very merry Christmas. Without drug court they would have never made it. It’s a great thing,” she says.

Brian was a little bit more philosophical; wondering if fate somehow played a role in his son’s and daughter’s-in-law recovery.

He recalls attending a meeting held in Owatonna by the Southern Minnesota Drug Task Force. One of the topics discussed — drug court.

“I don’t know if it was an omen or not. I pushed extremely hard to get them into the program,” says Brian. “It’s shown them how to make positive changes.”

The oldest of the graduates was 57-year-old Miles Bullerman of Wells.

He lost his job as a pharmacist and worked at a convenience store before regaining his license.

At first, Bullerman resisted following the rules of the drug court because he didn’t think it was going to help him.

After several months, however, Bullerman realized he was wrong.

“I was able to see the struggles and problems of those in drug court,” he says. “It opened my eyes and helped me get my life back on track.”

Melissa Willette of Fairmont needed to overcome some big challenges on her way to sobriety.

She began using drugs at age 8 and has been in treatment programs five times.

When she gave birth to a baby girl at age 17 her use of drugs decreased.

Melissa started using more drugs following the death of a young son.

After being arrested several times, she turned to drug court for help.

She says everything was falling into place, until the morning of Aug. 7.

“My little brother, my best friend, one of the most important people in my life had just committed suicide,” Melissa says.

“It wasn’t easy. Drug court has given me a foundation for a new life,” she adds.

All the graduates thanked the drug court panel, family members, friends, law enforcement and other court officials for their support.

“This is truly everybody’s success,” says Neal. “I came back from a place I didn’t know I would come back from. I owe you guys everything.”

Greg says law enforcement was ‘polite and respectful’ whenever they came to his home.

“You guys are more than welcome to come over anytime,” he adds.

After 18 months in drug court, Greg says he now has a full-time job, owns a home, isn’t behind with his bills and pays $600 a month in child support.

Bev Snow, coordinator of the program since October 2006, says Tuesday’s commencement celebration is a success story of society.

“Not only are all of them sober, but all five are employed. They didn’t have jobs when they started the program,” she says.

“Succeeding was extremely important to all of them. You could see the glow and glitter in their eyes. How they felt was genuine,” she adds.