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Becca Hinshaw is a shining example of drug court success


(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles focusing on the drug court program in Livingston County.)

Rebecca Hinshaw was at the lowest point in her life and she had a choice to make: wash up or go to jail. Having been incarcerated once, prison was not an option she liked. So it was time to clean up.

And nearly 13 years later, Becca, as she’s known, is clean, sober, and working for pay doing something that really matters to a lot of people.

Hinshaw was one of the first two participants in Livingston County drug court. This was before there was an actual, official, state-recognized drug court in Livingston County.

“I didn’t think I was going to go to drug court. It was kind of life changing,” Hinshaw recently told the Daily Leader. “I was happy to have a chance because I was considering going to prison. I thought I was going to prison for five years and I had been there before, so I didn’t want to go back. I needed help.

Hinshaw, who now works as a certified counselor at IHR, has openly stated that she struggles with heroin and alcohol. This admission is part of her recovery process and the story she tells her clients.

“It was a little different when I was on it,” Hinshaw noted. “I was in jail and was sentenced and then went straight to treatment and had an evaluation in Chicago.”

Hinshaw was charged with retail theft before going to drug court. She was basically a test subject because there had been nothing like it in Livingston County. The Livingston County Drug Court, as it currently exists, did not officially come into being until after Randy Yedinak took over as state’s attorney.

In Illinois, a drug court cannot be certified by the state without the recommendation of the state’s attorney for that county. Seth Uphoff was Yedinak’s predecessor and was not interested in having a certified drug court.

Still, there was some kind of drug court that was in place under the presidency of Judge Jennifer Bauknecht.

“Anyone can refer someone to drug court,” said Teresa Diemer, clinical director at IHR. “What we are looking for is someone who has their foot in the door of the Department of Corrections. A reference is given to Heidi (Zeidenstein) at Probation. They meet with that person to see if their charges, etc., meet their basic criteria. Then what she does is let one of us, usually me, know to do a substance abuse assessment to see if they have the minimum diagnosis they need to be in court for substance addiction. From there, they are approved or unapproved.

It was a similar situation for Hinshaw. Her retail theft conviction landed her another prison term, but the new program was available and she accepted the opportunity to change her life.

“These people tend to commit crimes because of their addiction,” Hinshaw said.

“If you end up in drug court, you probably have what we call a serious diagnosis of alcohol, opiates or methamphetamine. Meth seems to be hot right now,” Diemer said.

Hinshaw said she spent two months in inpatient rehab in Chicago. She noted that her youngest son, she has two sons, was allowed to be with her through this process. She then came to IHR for outpatient treatment.

“It’s more than likely that the client will come here for treatment unless they’re hospitalized,” Diemer said. “We are still involved with the client in drug court, even though they are not part of our treatment program.

“We are the care providers. We give them the counseling and therapy needed to make the changes we want them to see. We are part of this team to help the person to change.

Change is the key for the customer. Diemer said when a person comes to RSI for treatment, the process will include a substance use assessment to determine which drugs, including alcohol, are the problem. Also, if there is mental health, trauma, assess to see what is needed.

A recommendation is then made for outpatient or inpatient treatment. Diemer said treatment at IHR, which is outpatient, is 1 to 10 hours per week in group and individual sessions.

A client will attend group sessions, typically, three times a week and meet with a counselor one-on-one at least twice a month. According to Diemer, there are seven people in his addictions ward. Of these, two go to county schools – currently five high schools are visited – and five are in the office.

Among those in the office is Hinshaw, who earned her certification in May this year.

Hinshaw’s story was that she grew up in an environment of drugs and it eventually got her into trouble. She spent time at the Department of Corrections, but Hinshaw said she spent years without issue.

But then Hinshaw got into trouble again with the retail theft charge.

“We’ve seen it at its worst and progress to where it is today,” Diemer said of Hinshaw, who is the shining example of what drug court can do for those who need it and who work there.

“If you’re addicted to heroin, you’re pretty much selling your soul,” Hinshaw said. “I’ve been through withdrawals many times, you feel like you’re dying.

“(Drug court) gives people chances, chances that you wouldn’t think you had,” Hinshaw added. “The benefits, the main thing is that they encourage honesty, which is what you need to have for your recovery.”

“We really work a lot with clients to help them overcome guilt and shame,” Diemer said. “But along with that, I’ve seen people trying to recover without humiliating themselves. I think they have to accept responsibility, recognize what they have done and humble themselves.

Hinshaw said people in recovery need to be honest with themselves and accept responsibility for their actions. There is a standard of accountability that must be met and, she added, this changes the thinking process.

The system was set up a little differently when Hinshaw was offered drug court. The team in place today, which includes Diemer, Bauknecht, Yedinak, Public Defender Marinna Metoyer, Zeidenstein, Pontiac Police Chief Dan Davis and Dwight Police Chief Mike Nolan, oversees the process.

“It was more the probation officer, the judge and me,” Hinshaw said. “It has come a long way.”

Now there is basically an army of supporters from the team to those at IHR to those who share the experience of going through the drug process together.

“People who come to our doors just want to know that we care,” Diemer said. “We don’t judge people when they arrive, we meet them where they are in their lives today. They just want us to care about them.

“Becca didn’t have much support at all, so we were always her support system. Even when she had finished her treatment she had been sober and recovering for years, she still kept in touch with me and some of the other women who work here. We were his people, his family to help him through this. That’s the unfortunate part, a lot of people we work with don’t have a lot of support.

Diemer said Hinshaw was hired at IHR during his probation to act as a mentor to drug court clients.

“I would meet with her sometimes to help guide her, I was just trying to help her with the ins and outs,” Diemer said. “We hired her here as a recovery coach to do things here as well as at the prison. She still goes to the prison at least once a week.

“From there we saw the potential with her and put her on the right track to get tested so she could become a counsellor. She passed this test in May. She is considered a master’s level therapist in the state of Illinois.

Hinshaw is the only adviser, Diemer added, who clients know they can’t lie to because she has been their position. She knows stories and can read anyone.

In a previous interview, Yedinak noted that success can only be measured one person at a time, including Becca Hinshaw.

“When you look at this young woman who works at IHR who has completely changed her life, (she is) a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen who has given back to this same community that she was a part of,” Yedinak said. .

“Another thing, she’s raising her child,” Bauknecht added. “She costs the taxpayers nothing here, she pays her rent.

“We have a lot of stories like that – people who graduated, stayed sober, got a good job, had their kids living with them, raising their kids. Not only does the community benefit because it is a taxpaying citizen, but also because it supports itself and its family. They also contribute to society.

This article originally appeared on Pontiac Daily Leader: Becca Hinshaw is a shining example of success in drug court

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