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Family Treatment Court graduate has new lease on life

WHEELING — Clean and sober now for more than a year and in her 30s, Teonka Wilson of Wheeling acknowledges drugs and alcohol held a grip on her life and she was “broken spiritually.”

On Tuesday, she graduated from the Ohio County Family Treatment Court after more than a year in the program and a bout with COVID.

She is reunited with her infant daughter, and has a job as a barista at Wheeling University.

“I had been addicted to drugs and alcohol for 19 years,” she told those attending the graduation ceremony at the City-County Building in Wheeling.

“As much as I tried, I couldn’t stop — not even when I was pregnant. I hated who I was. I hated life in general.

“I felt like the worst person alive because I had done this to my innocent child. I knew I had to fix things.”

Wilson said her daughter, Te’Niyah Woodruff, was taken from her shortly after she gave birth. The baby is now back with her and was with her for the graduation ceremony on Wednesday.

“I would have done anything to get my daughter back,” Wilson said. “Sadly, that was the only reason (for entering treatment.)”

Wilson was the only Family Treatment Court graduate celebrated on Wednesday.

Ohio County Common Pleas Court Judge David Sims oversees the court, and said there are presently seven participants in the program. He said two others are on track to graduate sometime this summer.

The West Virginia Legislature in 2019 created Family Treatment Courts as a pilot program in select counties. It focuses on individuals with substance use disorders who are also involved in a child abuse and neglect case.

Participants receive alcohol and drug rehabilitation services, and are monitored by frequent random drug testing.

In addition to Ohio County, other Family Treatment Drug Courts are located in Roane, Boone, Nicholas and Randolph counties.

Wilson started her treatment in the spring of 2020, and continued through all the steps and met virtually with counselors even after contracting COVID.

Wilson termed the program “a good experience.” She said was nervous at first, but that she learned a lot about herself during the process.

“I learned that I have inner strength that I can find,” she said. “I learned that I can stay clean and be happy. And I learned that I am actually interested in reading, learning and things like that.”

Evan Jenkins, chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, made the trip to Wheeling for the graduation.

“Today is about celebration — a celebration of achievement and personal commitment…,” he told Wilson.

“I think oftentimes when people walk through the door into a courtroom, it is sometimes not a good thing. They are worried. They are scared. The environment here is not what you are used to. There are people here you don’t know, but you know all the attention is on you — oftentimes for not very good reasons.

“Today, yes, all eyes are upon you. But we’re here to say we support you, and we applaud you for what you have achieved.”

She cautioned her she will have to make many tough decisions in the future, and this was “only the beginning of the journey” for her.

Sims told Wilson he knew she was a little unsure of herself when she started the program.

“You didn’t know if you could do this. You didn’t know if you could be a good mom,” he said. “Over the past year, you’ve come 180 degrees, and I know you are confident in yourself and your abilities to be a good mom. We’re very proud of you.”

Erin Jordan, Family Treatment Court Coordinator, and Stacy Kasprowicz, child protective services worker commended Wilson for “being a very good mother,” and her strong efforts to complete the program.

“There is no going back — I can only go forward,” Wilson said.

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