The CNMI Drug Court has reached its maximum capacity and has 12 individuals on its wait list, according to Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio.
Speaking at the Rotary Club of Saipan’s weekly meeting last Tuesday, Kim-Tenorio said the drug court has offered its recovery services to over 20 individuals since starting in December 2016.
Since then, they have terminated two individuals and are currently treating 24, according to Kim-Tenorio.
As the judge for the drug court, Kim-Tenorio never imagined that this was something that she would be handling, adding that the role was dropped on her lap. Yet she now feels that she has found her “calling.”
Kim-Tenorio clarified that the program is not an alternative route out of prison, or a punishment for convicted drug users or drug traffickers. Rather, the program consists of intensive phases that lead individuals down a “sure path to recovery.”
Kim-Tenorio said the individuals involved with the program have a whole calendar filled with different activities that, step by step, lead them to long-term recovery and with a higher chance of starting a new life without turning back to drugs.
Kim-Tenorio knows that rehabilitation will not completely guarantee that an individual will not relapse, but the program does equip them with a fighting chance.
The goal of the Commonwealth drug court is not just to treat individuals until they are sober and then let them free, but also to heal the whole person, she said.
After spending some time with those in the program, she came to realize that they were not bad people. “They are good people, they just made a bad choice…everyone has a story,” said Kim-Tenorio.
She said that, after witnessing the progress that the drug court participants have been making, she has come to realize the enormity of the role she would play.
Kim-Tenorio said that one of her most rewarding moments as a drug court judge was hearing the testimonies given by family members of the drug court participants. One of the testimonies that stood out for her was when a young child thanked her for helping her mother. Through the drug court, the child was able to see more of her mother and for Kim-Tenorio, playing a part in that success is what inspires her to continue with the drug court.
According to Kim-Tenorio, it takes roughly $7,000 to fully treat each participant. Aside from the funding granted to the drug court by the Legislature, participants of the program are also required to pay a total of $540 once they are employed (the program helps them find a job). This helps alleviate the cost of treatment and it also teaches the individual about responsibility.