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Impaired driving diversion program to graduate its first class of participants

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Judge Les Rink, right, discusses the impetus behind the Beaverton Sobriety Opportunity for Beginning Recovery program, for which Jennifer Rivas, left, serves as case manager.As far as uncontrollable drinkers go, Pat Dooney — at least when he wasn’t behind the wheel of an automobile — was pretty controlled.

“I took care of my own issues,” he said in June, just before a Beaverton Municipal Court appearance related to two impaired-driving arrests. “I wasn’t a burden on anybody because of my drinking. I wasn’t the guy who was late to work.”

In fact, most people around Dooney didn’t seem to know he had a problem, or so he thought.

“No one else ever said anything to me until I had a year or six months of sobriety. Now a lot of people remark about it and say they like me better,” he said.

By next Thursday evening, when Dooney graduates, along with six others who’ve successfully completed the Beaverton Sobriety Opportunity for Beginning Recovery, or B-SOBR, program, he might just like himself even better.

Dooney and his fellow recovering alcoholics comprise the first “graduating class” of the program, which started nearly two years ago. The program currently has 45 participants, according to case manager Jennifer Rivas, who meets weekly with around 25 people in the program.

The graduation ceremony will take place on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6:30 p.m. in the Beaverton City Council Chambers.

A comprehensive, heavily monitored program, B-SOBR is designed to treat individuals whose drinking and drug use is beyond their control but who continue to drive motor vehicles. Participants agree to strict conditions in exchange for remaining out of jail: ongoing sobriety and urine tests, wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet, committing to Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar program, a search for employment and surprise check-ins from a police officer.

A three-year, $125,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation, which covers the program through September 2014, covers Rivas’ salary, home visits from Beaverton police officers and other related costs.

During a presentation on the program to the Beaverton City Council on Nov. 26, Municipal Judge Les Rink explained the depth and complexity required to solve the typical repeat DUII offender’s disease.

“They have cars, they won’t stop driving, and they can’t stop drinking,” Rink said.

The Beaverton Municipal Court handles about 600 impaired-driving cases each year, according to the city of Beaverton’s 2013-14 budget.

When the ODOT grant expires next fall, it will likely be up to the City Council, whose members expressed support for the program, to determine its financial future.

Admitting there are no guarantees after next September, Rivas said it’s rewarding to know that seven B-SOBR participants — who have been in the program for 17 to 23 months — have benefited from the program.

“The graduation is really exciting,” she said. “The people who have graduated have done what the program required them to do and have done it with excellence and compliance. They have recovered.”

Dooney, who was one of four upcoming graduates to address the council, said while the program kept him from at least a six-month jail sentence, he spent enough time behind bars through his arrests to know what he wished to avoid.

“Probably the scariest thing for me about jail is that you can get used to it,” he said, adding it took a lot of time and personal growth to come to terms with his problem — and pursue a solution. “After a while, you stop blaming everybody else. You start to learn how to be honest — and what it takes to be honest, not just with everyone else, but with yourself.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Julia Ramos, a participant in the Beaverton Sobriety Opportunity for Beginning Recovery diversion court program, is one of seven people who will graduate on Jan. 9.

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