OSSIPEE — The first ever graduate of Carroll County Drug Treatment Class was honored with a ceremony Tuesday morning at Carroll County Superior Court.
Thomas Saujon, 35, of Effingham, who has been in the program since August 2018, received congratulations from Executive Councilor Mike Cryans, Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, Carroll County Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen through her liaison Chuck Henderson.
Several members of Saujon’s family attended.
According to the Drug Court Handbook: “The mission of the Carroll County Drug Treatment Court is to reduce recidivism and enhance community safety by providing participants whose chemical dependence has resulted in criminal behavior with treatment and community supervision.
“As an alternative to incarceration, this judicially supervised program will provide participants with the opportunity to promote their recovery to reduce crime, restore families, and successfully reintegrate participants into the community.”
Drug Treatment Court is voluntary for offenders who meet the eligibility requirements.
The program involves “intensive substance abuse treatment” and supervision. Participants undergo random drug testing and frequent status hearings in front of the judge and team.
The drug court team is made of a Superior Court judge, a county prosecutor, clerk of court, a public defender, probation parole officer, a representative from the jail, treatment providers, case manager and a coordinator.
Drug court sessions happen on Tuesday mornings in Carroll County Superior Court.
With Saujon’s graduation, there are now six people in the program at various stages of completion.
During the ceremony, Saujon took the microphone to deliver a speech in which he thanked his family and those who helped him through the drug court process.
“Drug court has been very demanding, but the benefits for doing drug court have made it worth it,” said Saujon.
He said his life went to “rock bottom” in April 2018, when he was charged with burglary and possession of a controlled substance.
During a hearing, his attorney suggested that Saujon could enroll in the drug court program. He was scared when he first started but he soon realized that he already knew many of the drug team members and appreciated how well they had treated him in the past.
“I finally felt what it feels like to not have to live with fear,” said Saujon. “I learned that as long as I’m doing right, all will stay and be right with nothing to be feared. It’s an amazing feeling.”
As time went by, he quit using marijuana and weaned himself off of a medication-assisted treatment drug for opioids called Subutex.
“I knew if I could do this much, there was so much more in life waiting for me to achieve,” said Saujon, who said that his doctor was so impressed with his progress he was asked to help another patient get off the medication.
After what he said was complication with medications leading to his getting in a car accident, (Saujon in May reportedly crashed his car into the Mountainview Station Restaurant in Ossipee), he thought he would not be able to complete drug court.
However, said Saujon, people in his recovery network encouraged him to look at the positive changes he was making.
“The people who surrounded me were genuinely there for me and helped me to fulfill my drug court requirements,” said Saujon. “For them, words cannot express how grateful I am for their assistance.”
Ignatius said the ceremony was to acknowledge all the hard work that Saujon and the participants were doing.
“Your commitment to sobriety, the commitment all of you are making to sobriety is just huge, and it opens up doors to a wonderful life, a much more meaningful life for you, for your family, for all of the people you work with,” said Ignatius.
She praised Saujon for maturing over the course of drug court.
“You have faced struggles throughout this process, you have had complications, and you have risen above them. You didn’t give up on yourself, you didn’t give up on the program. You had family, you had other supporters members who were there to back you up. You came though it well,” Judge Ignatius said.
Nadeau, who spearheaded the program in New Hampshire, addressed the gathering though a video monitor.
She said the goal of drug court is to address substance abuse issues without jail or prison.
“You have done a lot of work to get yourself here,” Nadeau told Saujon, “but really this is just the beginning. There is a lot of work ahead of you. There’s a lot required from you to stay vigilant, for you to stay engaged in your recovery process. I wish you the best of luck on that journey.”
Cryans said that as a former Grafton County commissioner, he knows that drug court is a great program. He said he felt honored to be at the first Carroll County Drug Treatment Court graduation.
“It not only saves money, it saves lives,” said Cryans. “It also saves a better opportunity for you (Saujon) to be a better role model ... you are going to be the first ambassador to this program in Carroll County to show people I’ve done it, and you can do it.”
Henderson read a letter from Shaheen, which said, in part: “The perseverance you have demonstrated will serve as a reminder to others struggling with substance abuse disorder that change is possible.”
Saujon told the Sun he plans to pursue vocational education as well as a career in gemology, which is the study of precious stones.