By: Darcy Kamau, Program Coordinator for the Cobb County DUI Court in Georgia
May is National Drug Court Month, the annual opportunity for the treatment court community to share successes, educate the public, and engage elected officials. Averhealth asked Darcy Kamau, program coordinator for Cobb County, Ga., to share her story about why she chose this profession. It turns out there’s a personal connection that’s motivated her to serve.
I remember the time I drank the Drug Court Kool-Aid.
While in undergraduate school, I interviewed a Drug Court graduate in my local county for one of my last school papers. I fell in love with drug courts, and I started my probation career in 2004 in Tuolumne County, Calif. I was assigned to adult drug offenders and Drug Court probationers. I relocated to Georgia in 2010, where I became a DUI Court Probation Officer.
I hadn’t worked with DUI clients before and didn’t understand much about alcoholism or the type of addict on misdemeanor probation. I had compartmentalized my personal life so well from my professional life that it took me a while to connect the dots.
You see, my brother was killed in a DUI crash in 2002 in Denver while attending college. The drunk driver was his best friend. It took me a long time to share my story, but 20 years later, I understand the difference as well as the similarity of my roles as both a family member of a victim and a DUI court coordinator.
Secretly, it’s made the passion for my work easy to come by. I know the life-changing effects on a family, the hardships, and the toll of a loss from drunk driving – and I’d never wish that on anyone. I know that with some of the clients I work with, I’m fighting for their future – to save them from going to prison or death.
We haven’t always won those fights. We have a small memorial in our treatment building to our graduates who lost their battle with addiction or mental health. This motivates me to fight harder for those entrusted with our care.
I know my brother is proud of who I am and what I do, but more importantly, the work our entire team does is nothing short of a miracle.
I often refer to Accountability Court teams as the “Trifecta of Greatness” (Court, Treatment & Supervision). Somehow this simplified wrap-around team has the power to change lives by breaking the cycle of addiction in families, restoring marriages, improving careers, and, most importantly, preventing recidivism, which means saving lives in the community.
But that also takes a toll on all of us. That’s why I believe that self-care is also an important component of surviving this job. Personally, it’s been a challenging year, and I have been waiting for the weather to allow me to get back on the lake and kayak with my husband. That has been one of the greatest birthday gifts I’ve received. The stillness of the lake, combined with the fresh air, absence of screen time, and physical activity have been a huge blessing to my mental health.
Back to pre-pandemic strength
I don’t know how you calculate the lives you save by preventing future DUIs, but I do know that our program has an 87% retention rate and a 6% DUI recidivism rate for our graduates. I also know that graduations happen because of the hard work and dedication of the entire team.
Our current program population is back to pre-pandemic strength, but we’ve worked hard to promote the program over the last two years. Unfortunately, DUIs have increased during the pandemic, and I anticipate being busy for the next few years as those arrests are adjudicated.
We have plans to resume all in-person activities over the next few weeks and I’m thrilled to put our building back to good use! Drug Courts work, Accountability Courts – all of us collectively do some of the most impactful and purpose-filled work one could do, and that is incredible. Congratulations to all the Accountability Courts working on the front lines of addiction and public safety.
It’s a difficult job, but we are making a difference. Happy National Drug Court Month!
Darcy Kamau was born and raised in the central valley of California. She graduated from California State University, Stanislaus, with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. A few years later, she graduated from Norwich University with a master’s degree in Justice Administration. She has served in Cobb County’s coordinator position since 2013. In 2017, Kamau graduated from the Management Development Program through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, and in 2021 graduated from the same institute under the Accountability Court Coordinator Certificate Program. In 2020 she was honored to be the CACJ STAR award winner for the Coordinator role.