The West Virginia Family Treatment Court program was started earlier this year, in hopes of getting people over their drug addictions while reconnecting families.

On Friday, the Roane-Calhoun pilot program graduated its first member, Melissa May, and reunited her with her 2-year-old son who was in foster care.

“This really woke me up,” May said. “It made me realize that I was going downward when this happened. I thought this was the worst thing that could happen to me, and looking back now, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. I couldn’t have asked for anymore.”

May first got addicted to opioids after being prescribed pain medication following a horrific injury at work. She said things quickly got out of hand, and she was taking whatever she could get her hands on, eventually leading to being arrested.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I would have lost my little boy, and he means everything to me,” May said. “That would have sent me downward. I would have probably got back into drugs. I would probably be dead right now. This saved my life in many ways.”

May said she was successful in the program because of how structured it is. She was not able to just go through the motions and do the minimum to have her charges dropped; she worked hard to get sober and establish a plan to stay that way.

“Participants have curfews, they have call-ins,” Judge Anita Harold Ashley said. “They have required counseling sessions, they have therapy, they have random drug screening, but it is an every day process. It’s not something where you just kind of give them a list and they check boxes. Somebody is working with them just about every day of the program.”

The program also incorporates community service and other volunteer work to help people realize there’s a community of people to support them through this process.

“You can see that somebody has really put in the effort and conquered their drug addiction and done what was necessary to get their children reunited,” Judge Harold Ashley said. “This is a situation where they come to realize that there is a whole community of people in the court system that is interested in making sure they are recovering, they are getting better, that they are able to handle the situation so it is safe to have the children back in their custody.”

The program is currently being tested in eight counties across West Virginia and will hopefully be expanded to the rest of the state, Judge Harold Ashley said.

The Roane-Calhoun program has other people currently completing their assignments who are expected to graduate by the end of the year.