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Second Chances: Former Drug Court Graduate Returns as Employee

By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor

WELCH, WV – The McDowell County Adult Drug Court is in the business of helping people move past their addictions and recently welcomed one of their graduates back, this time as an employee. 

Willie Runyon graduated from the Adult Drug Court back in February and went on to complete the six month supervised probation period. 

“After you graduate you have a six month period of supervised probation, but if you complete that time with no new charges or no new drug screen failures, then you get dismissed,” said Kenneth Williams, ADC Probation Officer. “The original charges that got you into drug court get erased.”

Following his success in the program, Runyon recently got his driver’s license back as well as his GED. He just needed a job. 

“We really like the idea of giving second chances and Willie is a shining example of someone that can turn their life around and be a positive influence,” said Williams. “So he’ll be driving the van for Day Report and Drug Court.” 

“It feels good and this will still help me,” said Runyon about his new position. “Hopefully I can help someone else. You can always learn something.” 

“He can be like a guidance counselor,” said Williams. “He can share his experiences, what it means to him to turn his life around and try to help them do the same.”

Williams sees the Adult Drug Court as a positive effect both on the individual and the County, specifically the General Budget. 

“The thing we’re trying to push here, especially with the financial situation of the county, a program like this can save the County money,” said Williams. “If someone is arrested for selling, distributing, using, whatever, instead of putting them in jail until their hearing. Sometimes that’s months away, they can come down here and it doesn’t cost the County to house them.”

The ADC is also exploring a bond supervision program as another way to help soften the ever rising Regional Jail.  

“Once they get indicted, instead of keeping them in jail for months, they’ll be down here on Bond Supervision, getting drug screened, home monitored, work monitored,” said Williams. “Everything is about helping them get a second chance and help the County too.”

“You’ve got to want to change, but you can,” said Runyon. “It has helped me out a lot.” 

The ADC program began in November 2015 with their first participant. Now, 13 people have graduated from the program. 

“Out of those 13, none have reoffended,” said Williams. “They’re working, coaching football, busy being active members of society now.”

Runyon was brought on to fill the driver position after Vergil Green recently became a Peer Recovery Coach with the ADC, having been in Runyon’s seat previously. 

“My goal is to fill those gaps, such as no driver’s license, no GED,” said Green. “Later on in the program, we even help with employment. I look for those gaps and try to plug them in to what few resources we have and try to get them set for success. Willie is a shining example.”  

The program is only open to court ordered participants, but the ADC does offer classes for anyone seeking help, Celebrate Recovery and Narcotics Anonymous, each week.