BARSTOW The Barstow Drug Court is hoping healthy activities will lead to healthier lives for recovering drug addicts.

The drug court held a barbecue and sports day for clients enrolled in the program and their guests on Thursday afternoon at Foglesong Park. Representatives from the public defenders office, district attorneys office, San Bernardino County probation department and Barstow Superior Court presiding judge Margaret Powers joined the clients for food, talks and a game of softball. The event drew more than 100 participants.

Castro, a public defender at the Barstow courthouse, said the barbecue is the first step towards creating mandatory monthly activities to introduce clients to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Clients must go to mandatory hearings, drug tests, drug treatments and work towards getting things such as a job to remain in the drug court program. The drug court currently has 62 clients in Barstow.

"We want to help them not only get off of drugs through treatment, but also help them develop networks of sober friends that they can do sober things with," Castro said. "Normally they just have all the treatments and tests, this gives them something else to look forward to."

Renee Phillips is a drug court client that has been clean for 15 months and will graduate from the program in October. Phillips said the day in the park showed her what sober fun could be like.

"At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to come and be around all the officers and attorneys, but I didn't know how much fun doing things like this could be," Phillips said.

Castro and probation officer Cecil Smith said the drug court hopes to expand the program. The drug court is holding a meeting to discuss future activities on Monday.

"I hope we can provide activities like hiking, biking, swimming and sports for the clients to help bring them in and develop a healthy lifestyle," Castro said.

Castro said although the drug court is adding programs they are still looking for options for outpatient drug treatment following the closure of Vista Guidance Center's Barstow office. Vista Guidance provided low-cost treatment for drug court clients which the clients paid themselves. Castro said the probation department is offering a program called a Positive Alternative in the abscence of a drug treatment provider. The drug court is currently arranging a meeting regarding outpatient treatment with Panorama Ranch, a substance abuse program in Barstow, according to Castro. Castro said the drug court is also looking for grants and donations to help pay for the treatments.

Castro said the Barstow Drug Court is still compiling statistics on local recidivism, but anecdotal evidence has been positive. A study done on California drug courts by Northwest Professional Consortium a private company that specializes in researching crime prevention, drug courts, substance abuse treatment, and other similar programs showed in 2005 that recidivism rates were significantly lower for people that participated in a drug court.

The study found that 17 percent of drug court graduates and 29 percent of drug court participants were rearrested after the program. The control group that did not participate in a drug court had a recidivism rate of 41 percent. The study used information from the Butte County, Los Angeles, El Monte, Monterey County, Santa Ana, Laguna Niguel, San Diego County, San Joaquin County and Stanislaus County drug courts.

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