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Drug Court Celebrates First Graduation

The Harrodsburg Herald/Robert Moore
The Mercer and Boyle County Drug Court celebrated its first graduation last week. From left: graduate Stephanie Burton, Judge Jeff Dotson, graduate Hannah Lawson and Drug Court Coordinator Denise Gates.

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

The Mercer and Boyle County Drug Court celebrated its first graduation on Thursday, Feb. 15. Stephanie Burton and Hannah Lawson were presented with their diplomas by Circuit Judge Jeff Dotson.

“This is a very exciting day,” Judge Dotson said.

Drug Court is available to individuals charged with drug use or nonviolent drug-related crime. According to, it combines close court supervision and treatment with other services to “break the cycle of substance abuse and crime.” The program uses a team approach that involves collaboration among local judges, court staff, prosecutors, defense counsel, treatment professionals, law enforcement officers and other community agencies. Drug Court staff work closely with treatment providers and other community resources to offer a comprehensive approach to recovery and help participants regain control of their lives.

Participants are required to take part in mental health sessions, self-help groups and frequent urine screening. They also must obtain employment. The felony program lasts a minimum of 18 months and the misdemeanor program lasts a minimum of 15 months. Those who successfully complete the program may have their charges dismissed through diversion or be granted conditional discharge through probation.

While Drug Court was implemented in 1996, it did not begin locally until March 2022, when Judge Dotson was appointed to the circuit court bench after 19 years at the district court. All 120 counties in Kentucky now have drug court programs. As one person in attendance said Thursday, “graduations are the best part of the job.”

While there are a lot of people and agencies involved, it’s the commitment of participants like Stephanie Burton and Hannah Lawson who have made the drug court “a very successful program,” Judge Dotson said.

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