Friday, January 16, 2015

Montco Drug Court Judge Steven T. O'Neill Honored for Distinguished Service


The Montgomery County Courthouse/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
       Congratulations go out to Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O'Neill who was honored last week with The Honorable Milton O. Moss Public Service Award from the Montgomery Bar Association. The award was presented during the organization's annual luncheon. Bar Association officials said O'Neill was selected for the honor for his "distinguished service to the judicial system" for his contributions as administrator of the county's drug treatment court.
     Immediately after receiving the award, O'Neill dashed to preside over a Friday session of the weekly treatment court. A humbled O'Neill shared the honor with the counselors, probation officials, prosecutors and defense lawyers who work in the trenches of the program and said the honor was a testament to all of their hard work. O'Neill was congratulated by about two dozen of the current participants of the program.
   
Montgomery Bar Foundation President Steven Lupin (left) presents Judge Steven T.O'Neill with public service award. /Photo courtesy Montgomery Bar Association
     The drug court program, established in April 2006 and funded by the county, is an innovative approach to disposing of drug-fueled criminal offenses by offering participants intensive help to fight their addictions. The program encourages them to change their lifestyles and offers an opportunity to earn a dismissal of the charges against them or to have their court supervision terminated early. Participation in the program, which is voluntary, is at least 15 months long and may last as long as three years. The length of the program depends on how well an offender succeeds in dealing with the addiction and becoming a productive, crime-free citizen. The program typically has 130 participants at any given time. (Judge O'Neill on drug court )
     Last year, The Mercury, as part of a four-part series on the danger of heroin addiction, examined the drug treatment court. I spent many days observing the court and interviewing those dedicated to saving lives and some of the former addicts who were on their way to getting clean. The drug court graduations were highly emotional, complete with tears of joy as the graduates praised their probation officers and counselors for saving their lives. With hugs and high-fives, it was clear who the graduates loved and admired - Judge O'Neill.
Montco Judge Steven T. O'Neill/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
     Nikki Golden, a Royersford woman who spent 15 months in the program, gave birth to a drug-free baby in February 2011, graduated from the program in March 2012, and is now leading a productive life, said it best: "I love Judge O'Neill. He genuinely cares. He is trying to help you. He is trying to save your life. If it wasn't for drug court, I don't know where I would be, probably nowhere good." (Nikki Golden's Story )
     I couldn't think of a better candidate, or more deserving person, to receive the distinguished service award. Congratulations, Judge O'Neill, for providing exceptional service in support of the justice system.

                                                       
O'Neill's Gavel of Truth/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr./The Mercury

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