- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 20, 2018

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Kevin Hunter’s day job doesn’t typically lend itself to feel-good moments, but he got to share in 34 of them Monday afternoon.

Hunter, a Fort Wayne police captain, was among the first to congratulate nearly three dozen graduates of the 45th Allen Superior Court Drug Court. He runs the police department’s Vice and Narcotics Division, which often sees decidedly fewer happy outcomes for people it investigates.

“I usually talk about very depressing things,” Hunter said. “Today, I get to see hope and action.”

The court was established as one of the state’s first in 1996 by the late Judge Ken Scheibenberger, and it allows drug dealers and users a chance at life without those substances. Hundreds have taken part in drug court, and many have had charges against them dismissed because they completed counseling and treatment programs.

Hunter, who joined the department in 1989, said the court is valuable, particularly as the opioid crisis rages in northeast Indiana. A vice and narcotics sergeant attends drug court meetings, he said.

The program offers positive options to people who once might have been arrested by officers, sent to court and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, said Hunter, a member of the county’s Opioid Task Force.

“Many times it’s (that) they made a bad choice,” he said, referring to people who have sold or used drugs. “But they’re still human beings.

“Sometimes these people are broken, but they can be fixed.”

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, who presides over the program, credited Hunter - the keynote speaker at Monday’s graduation - with the drug court’s success.

“Captain Hunter has been instrumental to our drug court program,” she said. “I’ve heard him say we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We need treatment.”

Gull said graduates ranged in age from 21 to 58. Many got jobs or furthered their education, she said, and some were reunited with family members they’d pushed away because of drug use.

Graduates spent an average of 16 months in the program.

“Many of them have gone through cycle after cycle after cycle of addiction,” Gull said. “They have worked tremendously hard.”

One who worked hard is Jonathan Parks, who sat with his fiancee, Kara Kisling, and son Jaquari, 9. He said he entered the program in April 2017 after using and selling marijuana and cocaine.

Life is better without the drugs, he said.

“It’s beautiful,” Parks said. “I sleep better at night, everything.”

Kisling said she agrees.

“It’s been a long process,” she said. “I’m pretty proud of him.”

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Source: The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette, https://bit.ly/2taqy7j

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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