The Fulton County Accountability Court is an intensive outpatient treatment program that provides an opportunity for those with substance use and mental health issues to get treatment and avoid jail time if they successfully complete the 18 to 24-month program.
Mr. Jahcohn Anderson, a graduate of this program, agreed to talk to us about his journey in the program - how he found himself in trouble, his decision to enter the program, what it taught him, and his advice to others.
Here is his story…
Jahcohn found himself entering the Court’s intensive 18-24 month outpatient treatment program after he was “at the wrong place at the wrong time” about five years ago. Still in active addiction, he was charged with trafficking heroin after being in close proximity to a friend he used with, who was also dealing. While he had tried to get clean previously while living in Minnesota, the 28-day inpatient program he was in “didn’t stick”, and he found himself back out on the streets, using in Atlanta.
And so, after the arrest, sitting in the Fulton County Jail, with heavy charges hanging over his head, Jahcohn told me that knew he needed help. He knew he hadn’t applied the lessons he’d learned from the shorter program, and he knew his family needed him. Jacohn told me that he had prayed about what to do, and that getting arrested was a sign for him to get his life together.
Our Clinical Director, Ms. Sarah Sistrunk, had flagged Jahcohn as a possible candidate for the program, but she needed to hear directly from him if he was ready.
She explained that it was “a program to help addicts, not for dealers...He showed her the track marks”.
Once Jacohn entered the first phase of the program, he was able to quickly find a job at Popeyes, which provided much needed structure and “gave him somewhere to be outside of when he had to be at the program”. He was proud of himself as it became the first time he’d held a job for longer than a short time span. The life skills the Accountability Program was providing, “kept him mindful to do the right thing” during this new found employment.
He stayed in the program a bit longer than the 18-24 months in order to finish all the assignments, ultimately completing it in three years. I asked if when he first heard about the program, if 18 months seemed like a long time? He said “no, it didn’t sound long because I was ready to get my life together”.
As he moved through the program, working, rebuilding his relationship with his kids, taking steps and challenging himself, Jahcohn explained that
“drug court was the happy place for me, getting all the tools I needed to be free, to hold myself accountable".
I asked if his opinion changed any as he went through each step. He said that his “thoughts remained good the whole time, going through the phases I felt good about it, getting paychecks, not feeling triggers”. Jahcohn mentioned that one of the places he used to use in was the same neighborhood where Drug Court is; he even went to a few meetings there and ran into people he used to get high with. “But as the months went by, the better I started feeling”.
And what about new opportunities completing the program opened for him?
He pointed out how he realized he was “talking different, looking different, and doing different things” than when he was in active addiction. He went on further to say that he also got his respect back with his family and kids and that people now actually care about his opinion and his confidence has increased 20 times over. He’s even started doing spoken word live, exclaiming “I’m a walking, living testimony, me having confidence to step onstage”.
When I asked Jahcohn, if you had the chance to sit with someone at that jail, given the same opportunity you were, what would you want them to know? We decided to film that answer because it goes to the heart of the important message he has to share.
My last question, I wanted to know what he thought would have happened to him if he hadn’t been in this program, he quickly replied “in jail, or dead”.
-We thank Mr. Anderson for his honest reflection of his experience and appreciate the time he took to tell his story to others.