ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. — Kristen Brough has a second chance.
Brough is the pro account sales associate design consultant at Home Depot in Rock Springs where she listens to customer needs, processes transactions and makes orders for contractors.
“Sales is all about your personality. It’s how you treat the customer start to finish and how you take care of their needs,” she said.
For a long time, however, the 39-year-old Rock Springs native looked to methamphetamine to meet her needs, reported the Rocket-Miner (http://bit.ly/2dKRRND).
She began using the drug when she was 26 years old. She said she was a functioning addict, but after her husband was killed in a drug deal in 2012, things got worse.
“I took it to another level,” Brough said. “I lost my ability to care about anything I didn’t know how to deal with.”
She lost custody of her two daughters in April 2013 after being charged with child endangerment and misdemeanor possession. Her youngest daughter went to live with her parents while the oldest daughter went to her dad.
“That didn’t stop me,” Brough said.
MAKING A CHOICE
Despite fighting for custody of her children, she continued to do meth.
Her addiction culminated in another arrest Dec. 9, 2013, on a second charge of misdemeanor possession.
“It was that time I got arrested that I decided enough was enough,” she said. “I needed to do what I needed to do to get my girls back.
When Brough came before the judge she was given a choice: two to four years in prison or three years of supervised probation and treatment court.
She chose rehabilitation.
“I didn’t know what I was in for, but was willing to try,” she said.
Brough said Sweetwater County Deputy Attorney Teresa Thybo was one of the few who believed in her.
“I went before the panel by myself (and) she fought the hardest for me to go to treatment,” she said. “When I didn’t believe in myself she definitely believed in me; when I didn’t see it in myself.”
Thybo, who is a member of the Sweetwater County Treatment Court Foundation team, helped Brough start her journey.
Brough went into treatment or drug court Dec. 9, 2013, before going into a therapeutic community treatment program, which is an in-house substance abuse rehabilitation program. She spent several months there on an in-patient basis.
“Between therapeutic communities and drug courts, those are things that saved my life,” she said.
RIDING A ROLLER COASTER
Brough said the experience had its ups and downs.
During the early stages of treatment court, she said she did not like the strict regimen because it meant giving control to another. Her resistance culminated in having to repeat a level before advancing to the last stage of treatment court.
“I think repeating that level is when I realized that I needed to do something someone else’s way in order to be successful,” she said.
There are four levels in the program that each take about three months, depending on the person, foundation program coordinator Sandi Henderson said.
“They are in more treatment on levels one and two,” she said. “By the time they get to level four, hopefully they are doing well enough they don’t need quite as much supervision or any.”
Thybo said she showed Brough unconditional support because she felt there was more to her than being an addict.
“She had so much potential there that was hiding underneath the addiction and the anger,” Thybo said. “I think that because someone is an addict and their life is in shambles, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a good person inside that wants to come out.”
Brough said the support enabled her to believe in herself more and buy into the routine.
“I just learned to appreciate the little things and the opportunities that I was given; the little bits of freedom I was slowly gaining instead of assuming I deserved them. I learned to appreciate them,” she said.
Thybo said things changed when Brough stopped resisting.
“When Kristen started this process she was hardened and resistant to treatment. She had a lot of hurt in her life and she didn’t handle it well,” she said. “She dug deep into her issues. She reached out for support and she made a lot of positive changes in her life.”
CONTINUING A PROGRESSION
Brett Stokes, foundation vice chairman, said he has seen people take six to 18 months to get through the program.
“It depends on how quickly and how badly they want to clean up,” he said.
Brough graduated on Nov. 4, 2015, though her journey is not over.
“It’s a feeling of accomplishment when they complete the program, but they have to remain sober every day,” Rock Springs Police Chief Dwane Pacheco said. “If they graduate it’s not the end all. They got to continue to work the 12-step program and use the knowledge they gained and take it day by day.”
Stokes said some program graduates participate in an alumni group to support one another.
“They go out to dinner, kind of get together and talk to each other like a support group,” he said.
Brough said she works with people who have traveled down a similar path and are there for each other.
She said she is mentoring a 23-year-old woman who is recovering from a drug addiction.
“It encourages me to continue doing the right things because it reminds me of where I don’t want to be,” Brough said.
Thybo said she is proud of Brough.
“I think it’s wonderful that she’s giving back because she took away so much from here and has implemented it in their life,” she said. “It’s a great credit to her that people in the treatment community trust her to mentor someone and believe she is capable of mentoring someone in the same condition.”
PROGRAMS ADJUST TO CUTS
A struggling economy is causing governments to make difficult funding decisions.
In June, Gov. Matt Mead announced $90 million in cuts to the Wyoming Department of Health budget, including a $1.2 million cut for treatment or drug courts.
The foundation saw a $33,254.33, or 16 percent, reduction to go along with less money from Sweetwater County and Rock Springs. Only Green River has maintained its past level of funding, Thybo said.
Tighter funding is expected to decrease the list of clients they could take by at least three, Henderson said. The state finances treatment courts based on how many people they handle, she said.
The program has 21 participants, which is down from 23 in the 2015-16 fiscal year. If there are more cuts, which is likely according to Henderson, the foundation will have to be selective in who enters the program.
“We are full and overflowing,” she said. “We’re going to have to be really picky on who we’ll put in.”
She added, however, it could have been worse.
The original proposal presented by Mead included a larger cut than the 16 percent revised reduction.
“If we would have received the 56 percent cut, drug courts across the state and a lot of your treatment centers would have had to close,” Henderson said.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
In February, the Legislature passed a bill to enable judges to assess up to $50 for the court supervised program for anyone who pleads guilty in a circuit or district court.
When there are enough funds in the pot, it could be divvied up to help courts statewide, Henderson said.
“We’re hoping that kicks in and the amount gets high enough to where we can continue to fund our drug courts,” Stokes said.
Member of the foundation and its program team met Sept. 19 to discuss ways to get local support.
“One of our strategies involves a committee to reach out to some of the stakeholders in the community to see if they would be willing to donate monetarily to our nonprofit treatment court program,” Pacheco said. “We are not the only ones with our hand out, but we see it as a cost savings for the public. We see it as a good program for those offenders who meet the criteria.
“We’ve helped numerous individuals continue to be gainfully employed by the treatment court while fulfilling their obligation to the court. They are continuing to work with industry and now we’ll ask industry to help us out and help us maintain the program at levels we were able to in the past.”
Addition declines in funding could threaten the program.
“My biggest fear is that the treatment court program gets defunded all together,” Sweetwater County Sgt. David Johnson said. “To me, that doesn’t make sense because the only alternative we have for these folks is to keep them in jail or put them in prison. It will be more of a burden for taxpayers.”
Rock Springs Municipal Court Judge George Scott Nelson said it would be a setback for individuals and the community.
“I think everything we gained to this point would be negated,” Nelson said. “And it would return the burden to the regular court system of monitoring and probating.”
While there may be uncertainty regarding the future of Wyoming treatment courts, the system continues to turn lives around.
Brough is set to finish her probation Dec. 8. She said she is the happiest she has been in a long time. She continues to excel at work, where she is second in sales in the district, which is comprised of Rock Springs and 12 Utah stores.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the steps I took,” she said.
Brough said she is living the life meant for her.
“I am able to stand on my own two feet and know I am enough,” she said. “That I have the abilities to be the person I was meant to be by being a mother to my own children and taking on two more children and being in a healthy relationship; which also trickles into having the confidence in being successful in a work environment.”
Information from: Rock Springs (Wyo.) Rocket-Miner, http://www.rocketminer.com