BY D’ARCY EGAN
Judge Kathleen Giesler’s court room was crowded, and for a change everyone was wearing wide smiles. It was graduation day for Briana Carnicom, a Sandusky County mom who would be reunited with her three children.
The young mother found herself in Judge Giseler’s courtroom because of her addiction. After much soul-searching on her part and because of a experienced team of professionals who were ready to help, Carnicom was allowed to embrace the Helping Our Parents Excel (H.O.P.E) program.
The program was designed to treat her addiction and help put Carnicom and her family back on track, a success she wanted to share with the community.
“I had never done any other programs when I lived in Sandusky County or in any other county,” said Carnicom. “But this was something very different. I had been pretending everything was OK for me and my children, but it got worse.
“I finally knew that if I didn’t take advantage of the help being offered by the H.O.P.E. program, there probably wouldn’t be another chance for my kids and me.”
With professional help, Carnicom fought her addiction, as well as overwhelming depression. Joining the program last March, she said she finally began to look at herself differently, giving her the impetus to become a success story, get her children back, obtain a job and a find a family home.
“She has done all of that, and we’re so happy for her,” said Specialized Docket Coordinator Ann M. Johnson, who coordinates the H.O.P.E. program as a member of Judge Kathleen Giesler’s Ottawa County Probate and Juvenile Court.
“I take referrals to family dependency court, get parents plugged in, and do the nuts and bolts it takes to coordinate a treatment team,” said Johnson. “We monitor all participants with drug screens to ensure they are compliant and following all of the orders.
“I’ve been doing this for almost six years now, and I really like it. It is tremendous to look at these cases, and know you may have helped resurrect some for life. It is so rewarding for me, and everyone involved, in helping patch families back together.”
Because of the toxic aspect of addiction, Johnson is often surprised they stay off drugs.
“It is far more difficult to do that than most people understand,” said Johnson. “It’s a daily struggle you have to learn to do. They have to re-do their whole lives, prepare for changes and live those changes.
“It calls for changing friends and their environment, virtually everything they know. It’s scary, fighting addiction, and a full-time job. But down the road I can see a productive woman with a happy family. The kids are always to happy to have their family back together.”
“I wake up smiling each morning now,” said Carnicum, as she was getting ready to slice her graduation cake. “I’m a different person now, and it feels good.”