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How Centre County’s first drug court graduates say the program changed their lives

Centre County Drug Court graduates first class

Centre County Drug Court graduated its first class on Thursday, August 8, 2019, at the courthouse in Bellefonte. This video is made possible through the Centre Daily Times' TV partnership with WTAJ. (Video does not have sound)
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Centre County Drug Court graduated its first class on Thursday, August 8, 2019, at the courthouse in Bellefonte. This video is made possible through the Centre Daily Times' TV partnership with WTAJ. (Video does not have sound)

Two years ago, Sydney Trinca said she thought she would either be dead or in jail because of her drug use. Her friend, Giovanni Mazzotta, said he was depressed and put up a wall to block out his emotions.

The two reflected on the previous chapters of their lives Thursday at the Centre County Courthouse after they became the first to graduate from the county’s drug court, which started operating in January 2018. Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest said it was “bittersweet” to watch them graduate.

“The words that come to mind are care and team effort and lots of people coming together to support — and that’s what we need,” Trinca said. “If we’re just kicked to the curb, we’re not gonna try harder. This program has just helped me a lot. ... Things are just really happening that I never thought could happen.”

Trinca, 24, of Penns Valley, started using recreational drugs and drinking alcohol, but progressed to harder drugs. She was in and out of jail four times, she said, and also found rehab to be ineffective.

She was accepted into the drug court program in April 2018 and said it gave her “a life that I didn’t think I could have.” Mazzotta, 27, of Centre County, joined her in the program about two months later.

“Prior to this, I probably had nine months on the street in five years, so I really didn’t have too much of a life,” Mazzotta said. “I didn’t have any emotions; I covered everything up. Where I was at that point in time, I was depressed, but I guess it comes with being where I was.”

The specialized program for nonviolent individuals has five phases. The first four are a minimum of three months and the fifth stage — where Trinca and Mazzotta are headed — is an aftercare program.

Watching Trinca and Mazzotta mature and progress through the program was a “really great experience,” Assistant District Attorney Josh Bower said.

Bower, who attended weekly drug court meetings since January 2018, said Mazzotta is a mentor for new participants, while Trinca hopes to become a certified recovery specialist.

“Both of them have grown as people. They’re both great leaders for the people inside and outside this organization. It’s been a blessing to watch them grow,” Bower said. “It’s really important that the community realizes that we have a real opportunity to impact lives here, which will reduce crime down the road.”

The program came to fruition after the county received a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in October 2017, with a match of $133,493.

“One of the challenges that these folks undergo in the course of their treatment process is they have to be held accountable, but at the same time, they realize they can get their old life back,” county Commissioner Steve Dershem said. “This is an amazing program. It’s a labor of love.”

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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