At the time of its inception, the Gallatin County Treatment Court was the first of its kind in Montana. Now, more than 20 years later, he helps people face alternative sentences and stay sober.
“You have to be happy to live sober. If you’re not happy living sober, what’s the point, ”said Jonathan Vander Sande, a participant in the treatment court program.
Vander Sande is weeks away from graduating from the program; he went through 17 of the 18 months required by the program.
“It was tough at first, but once you get into the rhythm it really mellows – it just becomes part of your life,” said Vander Sande.
The Treatment Court was established in 1999 in Gallatin County and provides a way for people to use this treatment after their conviction.
“It’s great to see these people working on their own throughout the process. Some of them have issues along the way and they resolve them, ”said court coordinator Andrea Lower.
Over the course of a year, they have an average of 12 degrees; the program can accommodate approximately 25 participants at a time. Lower says Covid-19 has posed a few hurdles, but they’ve been able to earn 10 degrees so far in 2021.
Participants receive mental health and addiction counseling as well as community services to keep them on track to sobriety and graduation.
“In my short time working at the treatment court, new people are coming all the time based on their sentencing orders,” Lower said.
After countless court dates to track accountability, there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel for Vander Sande, weeks away from his own graduation.
“Getting sober, there’s a lot of stuff behind it, but I think it’s a good first step to getting 18 months of sobriety, because getting those first 18 months of sobriety is the first part of it,” said Vander Sande.
The biggest takeaway for Vander Sande as he completes the program, and his biggest advice for those who might need help, is this:
“Getting that initial sobriety is huge whether or not you like the program or whether it works for you,” he said.