SYCAMORE – One man in the DeKalb County Drug Court program has to wake up at 3 a.m. to take a train to his job in DuPage County.
As part of the program, the man has to stay in a supervised residential treatment program and work to pay rent at the treatment facility. Because there are no such sober living homes for men in DeKalb County, he has to travel to Addison for his job while also fulfilling his obligations to the DeKalb County Drug Court in Sycamore, said Marilyn Stromborg, drug court coordinator.
Stromborg and other local drug court leaders want to make these circumstances a little easier for future drug court participants by opening a sober living home for men in Sycamore. City Council members revised Sycamore’s zoning rules to allow a sober living house near the courthouse in October, but leaders are still in the earliest planning stages. They haven’t selected a potential location.
Of DeKalb County’s 35 or so current drug court participants, a third of them are men who stay in homes in places such as Addison, Elgin and Aurora, Stromborg said. The women typically stay at the Discovery House, which is run by the Ben Gordon Center in DeKalb.
But some of them also stay in homes outside the county, she said.
It’s a situation that is difficult for everyone involved with the drug court, Stromborg said. The men need to be close to the program at the courthouse in Sycamore just like the women, but all of the sober living homes for men are outside the county, she said.
“Our program is very structured and evidence-based and these people living in Lake, Kane or DuPage County… we can’t just offer [them] the same kind of intensive services,” she said.
The drug court program is divided into five phases, with the first four lasting about three months and the last one lasting about two months. After the first phase, candidates must stay in a sober living home or a similar facility.
It’s there the residents are supervised by a house manager and the drug court team. They have to do chores, attend counseling sessions and other meetings, Stromborg said.
Drug court participants also build relationships with others committed to sobriety in these residential programs, which is essential for long-term sobriety, Stromborg said. But those important relationships might be of little use if they moved back to DeKalb County during the phases of the program.
“They have to start all over from scratch,” Stromborg said.
DeKalb County Drug Court officials visited with Will County Drug Court officials to see how their sober living homes were established and run, Stromborg said. Julie McCabe-Sterr, Will County Drug Court coordinator, said four years ago they set up a home for men and a year and a half ago they created a home for women in Joliet.
“I believe it increases our success rate because the people are more locally supervised,” McCabe-Sterr said. “It improves the quality of our program because they build rapport with the other guys in the house and build a sober living network.”
The police have never been called to the homes in the time they’ve been established, McCabe-Sterr said. The only time they come is to bring their K-9 units to sniff for drugs, which is part of how the homes are supervised, she said.
The Will County Drug Court team also organized community meetings to introduce residents to their neighbors.
“People’s perception of these people is that they are hardened criminal thugs,” McCabe-Sterr said. “But in reality they are nonviolent offenders who’ve done drugs and they are extremely supervised.”