LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – As substance abuse dots the national headlines, some mid-Michigan courts have looked at tackling the issue with a different approach.

The effort to battle addiction and drug abuse has taken many forms in recent years,
including stronger enforcement to expanding resources to help victims.

One Ingham County woman said she wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for the help she got from her case workers and treatment court leaders.

“I didn’t like it at first. I was reluctant and didn’t want to do anything. But with the support and the encouragement from everyone in the team and the judge, it became easier,” said Regina Cates.

In a hushed packed room, Cates shared her story of substance abuse, meth use and how hesitation turned into determination as she went through recovery.

After time on probation and a year spent in jail, she said she found herself in family recovery court in 2019. With a long road ahead, she said she needed help keeping up with drug testing and meeting with caseworkers. Hers is a story Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is all too familiar with.

“My participants were saying I can’t afford to go to testing. I don’t have money for treatment. I can’t find a place to live. I don’t have money for an alarm clock,” Judge Aquilina said.

She said money became a common barrier for people going through her courtroom. But that frustration sparks the idea of creating the Mid-Michigan Treatment Courts Foundation, a donation-driven program helping to bridge the gap to successful treatment.

Judge Aquilina said before the foundation, the rate of people reoffending was near 80%. That has fallen to between 5% to 12%.

“It’s about saving lives, taking people back to their families and getting them treated so we don’t have repeat offenders. And the program works,” Aquilina said.

Kevin Bucci was Cates’ case worker. He said after more than two years of encouragement and hope, her case was closed.

“And then all of the pieces kind of fell into place. She got her own house and the kids at school improved immensely,” said Bucci.

Looking back, Cates’ thankful for her journey.

“It’s very worth it, just stick with it and do what you have to do and it will change your life.”

Originally this foundation served just Ingham County but now has expanded to include Eaton Clinton, Jackson and Livingston counties. Judge Aquilina said she hopes to see more counties joining the fold.