By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The first three inmates of the Belknap County Jail to complete the Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and EducatioN program, or CORE, a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program, graduated yesterday at a ceremony Keith Gray, superintendent of the Department of Corrections, called "a big deal for them and a big deal for us."
Surrounded by family and friends, all three — Brianna D'Amore, Joseph McCormick and James Rivers — echoed D'Amore, who said that the program "has given me a fighting chance at life."
Gray noted that for too long his department has been unable to offer substance abuse programming for want of resources, personnel and space, but stressed that "the CORE program will be the driving force behind our community corrections program in 2017.
The Department of Corrections is offering the program through a partnership with Horizons Counseling Center of Gilford, whose executive director Jacqui Abikoff told the graduates she hopes "they make good use of the program" and reminded them "It's just the beginning." She said that the three-month program consists of between 12 and 15 hours a week in class and "lots of homework" aimed at fostering a thorough understanding of the physical, mental and behavioral aspects of addiction and developing a strategy for each individual to pursue their recovery. "Each one of them has a plan to combat addiction and manage their recovery," she said.
"It's a life-long battle," Abikoff said, adding that the program provides recovering addicts with tools to combat their addiction and manage their recovery. "It treats their addiction and changes their thinking," she said. "They will understand the way their addiction talks to them."
Travis Dickinson, an inmate enrolled the program and set to graduate in March, congratulated the three graduates, who he said "persevered through adversity to be here today." Noting that "addiction has destroyed so much and hurt so many," he said "We learn that we cannot cure this disease ourselves." The program, he continued, "cultivates an awareness of life," which includes a respect and affection for others.
"Simple acts of selflessness become commonplace," he remarked. "We now have hope. We dream again."
Eying the three graduates, he reminded them that the "responsibility of a clean and sober life rests squarely on their shoulders."
McCormack confessed he was nervous about what would happen when he completed the program, whether he would be capable of resisting addiction. But, he said that he is confident of his recovery.
"I'm alive, healthy and sober with the opportunity to be be a good father," he said. "I have a second chance at life."
D'Amore was all smiles and aglow, but confessed "public speaking is not my strength," then said that "this program has given me a second chance at life."
Rivers declined to step to the podium, but later said that he was pleased and proud to have completed the program and looked forward rejoining his family and raising his son.
While D'Amore will be released shortly, both McCormick and Rivers still have time to serve. Abikoff said she expected both will qualify for work release and electronic monitoring, which will provide a gradual return to the community and an opportunity to pursue their recovery in a managed setting.
The first graduates of the Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and Education (CORE) program at the Belknap County Jail — Joe McCormick second from left) James Rivers (center) and Brianna D'Amore (right) celebrated their success at the county complex yesterday. Alongside his partner Brittany Poole, McCormick holds his two-month-old daughter Serenity while Rivers, with his sister, Mimmet, holds her six-month-old son, Parker. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)
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