Shared from the 5/15/2019 Reading Eagle eEdition


Treatment courts celebrate graduates, success

The county held its first combined ceremony for its Drug, DUI, Veterans and Mental Health treatment courts, recounting recovery stories and statistics from the flourishing programs.



Megan Catarious receives her diploma during graduation from the Berks County DUI Treatment Court on Tuesday at the county services center.


Megan Catarious and Judge Eleni Dimitriou Geishauser have come a long way since Catarious showed up in court under the influence in September 2016.

“I was a newbie judge, and Megan came into my court graciously testing me,” Geishauser said sarcastically of the interaction.

The judge revoked Catarious’ bail and sent her to jail, telling her she would only be released into a rehab facility.

Now sober two years and seven months, Catarious, 29, said Geishauser saved her life that day. She said the night before that fateful court hearing was the last time she went to bed praying God would take her because she simply didn’t have any fight left in her.

On Tuesday, Catarious graduated from Berks DUI Treatment Court along with 24 other individuals during the county’s first combined graduation ceremony for the four treatment court programs. Catarious served as the DUI Treatment Court’s speaker, with other graduates sharing their experiences in the drug, veterans and mental health programs.

“I had to lose myself to find myself,” Catarious said to the crowd packed into the auditorium in the Berks County Services Center. “There I was sitting in jail suffering, but finding myself and building strength.”

Catarious entered rehab on Dec. 9, 2016, and after staying clean for 17 months, had to face the consequences for her crimes in February 2018. She had been told many times she wouldn’t be accepted into the treatment court program and was prepared to go to jail for nine months.

Instead, Geishauser gave her a chance, allowing her into the program and putting her on house arrest for nine months. Catarious said it was overwhelming at times, trying to keep up with the requirements of the program while working full time and raising her children, but she chose to change her perspective.

“I took my time,” she said. “I did everything I was told to do, and I didn’t rush it. I trusted that the treatment court team had my best interest in mind.”

Now instead of hating herself, Catarious said she’s happy to be alive and grateful that Geishauser and others saw something in her she couldn’t see before.

“I look forward to celebrating a lifetime of recovery,” she said. “I’ve become addicted to life.”

Saving lives, resources

Since taking over the reins of the Drug and DUI Treatment Courts in January 2016, Geishauser and Judge M. Theresa Johnson have added several new components to the programs, including graduation ceremonies. Tuesday’s ceremony also recognized national Drug Court Month.

Geishauser, Johnson and Senior Judge Stephen B. Lieberman, who presides over the veterans and mental health programs, proudly shared several statistics about the programs’ successes from the last three years.

Of the 246 participants who completed the programs, only nine ended up back in the criminal justice system for committing a crime after graduation. Geishauser said the DUI Treatment Court hasn’t had a single graduate slip up, putting the program well beyond the national average.

And by keeping participants out of prison, the programs have saved the county 56,100 jail days, based on the potential minimum sentences. Considering the prison’s average prisoner cost of $90 a day, those diversions add up to a total cost savings of more than $5 million the past three years.

Geishauser noted that while county officials say it’s not exactly a dollar-for-dollar exchange, it’s still making a huge financial difference.

“We would’ve been paying those dollars to have you incarcerated, and that didn’t have to happen,” she said.

County Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach, state Rep. Mark Rozzi, state Sen. Judy Schwank and District Attorney John T. Adams said they were happy to support the programs and congratulated the graduates for making the important decisions to change their lives.

Leinbach said that several years ago county and court officials realized that incarcerating people and filling up the prisons wasn’t solving the problem, so they looked for other alternatives.

“We all make mistakes in our lives,” he said. “And we all have received second, third and fourth chances. This is about restorative justice.”

‘Live your dreams’

Keynote speaker Lee Olsen, president and CEO of Olsen Design Group Architects, told the graduates he wishes the treatment court program was around when he was struggling with his alcohol addiction 35 years ago.

Olsen said that after drinking for 22 years, his sobriety has been a day-to-day, and sometimes minute-to-minute, journey.

He said he hit bottom in Dec. 20, 1983, when he stole from his wife’s purse and went out to several bars and ended up on his parents’ porch. He got into treatment that afternoon, and ironically, was placed in a dormitory at Caron Treatment Center that he had designed.

He encouraged the graduates to love themselves, cherish those who love and support them, make amends to the people they’ve hurt and embrace their true selves and passions.

“Putting the plug in the jug is the easiest part of addiction; it’s what you do after that counts,” he said. “Live your dreams, they’re there for the taking.”

Contact Stephanie Weaver: 610-371-5042 or

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