Last week, in recognition of National Drug Court Month, the Montgomery County commissioners issued a proclamation lauding the county’s drug treatment program overseen by Judge Steven T. O’Neill for the last 10 years.
|Judge Steven T. O'Neill/Submitted photo|
Commissioners Josh Shapiro, Val Arkoosh and Joe Gale called O’Neill “a trailblazer” and “visionary” for his work and dedication to a program that helps offenders fight their addictions, encourages them to change their lifestyles and offers them the opportunity to earn a dismissal of the criminal charges against them or to have their court supervision terminated early.
Shapiro recalled attending the recent 82nd drug court graduation and was awed by the way the graduates looked up to O’Neill with respect and admiration.
“As you poked your head out before the program began, one of, I presume, the graduates sitting behind me goes, ‘There’s the judge, he’s The Man,’” Shapiro smiled. “How often does that occur when a defendant’s in the courtroom and says, ‘He’s The Man?’ That doesn’t happen all the time and I think that speaks to the approach that you individually take but also the approach that collectively we take here in Montgomery County.”
|Commissioner Josh Shapiro/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
Shapiro said the county’s drug treatment court has become the model for other counties designing problem-solving courts all across the state.
O’Neill took about 20 minutes to tout the program during the commissioners’ meeting. I sometimes grouse that O’Neill speaks way too long at times when speaking publicly but in this instance it was warranted. He has every right to be proud of the program. It has saved lives, I have no doubt.
|Judge O'Neill addresses commissioners/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
I’ve interviewed people who have been helped by O’Neill’s drug court program and who credit O’Neill and his assisting probation officers and counselors for saving their lives.
“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,” one young woman told me during a 2013 interview
|Judge O'Neill receives proclamation/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
You’ll recall something I posted here last October, when O’Neill didn’t think twice before springing into action after witnessing a car crash at a gas station on Montgomery Avenue in Lower Merion.
Turns out O’Neill was pumping gas, minding his business, when suddenly a car entering the gas station lot crashed into a pillar holding up the canopy over the gas pumps. The female driver was unresponsive, her foot still on the accelerator, tires spinning, and smoke began filling the interior of her burning vehicle, according to sources.
O’Neill reportedly yelled for the attendant to call 911 while he dashed to the woman’s vehicle and banged on the windows to try to get a response from the driver while the vehicle’s tires continued to spin. Finding the doors locked and the woman still unresponsive, O’Neill grabbed a crowbar from the station attendant and smashed the back window of the vehicle to allow the smoke that was building inside to escape.
By that time, emergency crews arrived and were able to get the woman out of the vehicle, sources said.
Perhaps, “The Man” moniker IS well-deserved.
Congratulations, your honor, for your 10-years of service making drug court a success.