DUNKIRK – The Dunkirk City Treatment Court celebrated National Drug Court Month at a graduation this week in City Hall.

The ceremony honored the five graduates who completed their rigorous recovery program and recognized 16 current participants who advanced through the mandated phases.

The theme of this year’s national campaign is “Drug Courts: a Proven Budget Solution.”

Since the start of the treatment court in Dunkirk in 2002, more than 250 individuals have been enrolled in the program.

The drug court treatment model seeks to break the chains of abuse by providing a holistic team approach that enables individuals to change their lives.

Judge Walter Drag has presided over the local drug court since its beginning, offering an alternative handling of criminal cases not only for defendants in City Court but also all town and village courts in northern Chautauqua County and Chautauqua County Court in Mayville. In addition to the participants who graduated and moved into phase advancement, a “Beacon of Hope” award was presented to Marcia Kieffer, the director of the Chautauqua County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Clinic.

The award is given to a person who has shown a deep personal commitment to helping the participants work in a recovery program. A framed print of the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse is presented to the recipient.

The guest speaker was Steven Wickmark, who is the assistant district attorney assigned to both the Dunkirk and Jamestown Treatment Court teams. He is the former commissioner of social services for Chautauqua County and has worked as an attorney on issues involving children and families for more than 28 years.

Flowers and cards were given to the four Fredonia State College students who interned in Dunkirk City Court this spring semester: Declan Gunovski, Carrie McCausland, Amanda Spagnuolo and Chrissy Woods.

“The good news is that people can and do change sometimes in spite of tremendous odds against them,” Drag said. “That is why we hold graduations and open houses to bear witness to the courage and success of those completing the program. It also offers encouragement to those in the program and to those considering it.”