Camp becomes first refunded money in ‘Better Life’ program

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 2/11/18

A Sumiton man has become the first in the Better Life Program to get half the money back that he paid into the drug rehabilitation program — and he is donating $500 each to each back to the program and to his church.

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Camp becomes first refunded money in ‘Better Life’ program


A Sumiton man has become the first in the Better Life Program to get half the money back that he paid into the drug rehabilitation program — and he is donating $500 each to each back to the program and to his church.

“If it had not been for the drug court program, I really don’t think I would have made it,” Michael Camp said.

Camp, who turns 39 on March 20 and has been drug free for five years, was presented a check for $2,217 from the Walker County Drug Court on Friday during a regular review meeting for drug court cases by officials at the Walker County Courthouse Annex.

His donation back to the program will go toward the purchase a television and a DVD player (to play drug court videos), as well as repainting of the counseling center, according to a release issued by the program.

He is also donating to Little Vine Baptist Church in Empire.

Steven Shaver, the county drug court coordinator, said, the Better Life program is a chance for Camp and others like him to prove to themselves that they can stay clean.

“People in drug court, they are forced to stay clean. We drug test them,” he said. “We control their lives 100 percent.”

After a minimum of 18 months in drug court — the longest of someone in drug court has been five years — they are given an opportunity. As they have been forced to stay clean that long, officials give them a chance to voluntarily prove they can stay clean over a period of time, allowing them to get a refund of some of their money in the program, he said.

That does not include court-ordered funds such as court costs, restitution, district attorney fees and attorney fees. “The only thing they are getting reimbursed is what they paid to be in this program, such as their drug testing and their counseling,” Shaver said.

According to the release, “The Better Life Program allows them to prove to themselves that they can voluntarily stay clean on their own. The fact that they voluntarily submitted to drug tests, had to keep their jobs and had no new charges is a win for the person in the program and for the citizens of Walker County.”

Shaver said the drug testing — which is frequent — is provided free to the participant, and the program has a state-certified counselor.

“If they do it for two years, they get paid half their money back,” he said. “If they do it for three years, they get all of it back.

“This allows them to prove to themselves that they can do it,” he said. “It is a win for the drug court, for the individual and for everyone in Walker County. That person has been clean for two years, four years, six years, whatever. They have beaten addiction.”

The Better Life Program was started about three years ago, but Camp is the first one out of about seven participants to last long enough to get any money back.

Walker County District Judge Henry Allred said, “I am actually surprised we haven’t had more sign up for it.” 

Shaver said many who graduate from drug court think they have nothing to prove and have the problem licked. “But they really don’t. A lot of them don’t. So we try to give then an incentive to stay clean longer,” he said.

Currently five are in the program now, Shaver said, noting the fees that people pay into the program funds it.

The average person in an 18-month drug court program will pay more than $3,000.

“We want these people to pay their own way,” he said. “They are the ones who went out here and stole from their families. They need to pay all that back. They don’t get back that money. The restitution they owe, they have to pay that. This is up to them. They are the ones who messed up. It is self sufficient.” 

Camp said he went through the drug court program from 2013 to 2015, graduating from that to start the Better Life program in Dec. 4, 2015. He finished exactly two years later, on Dec. 4, 2017.

“The Better Life Program was great. It gave me a chance to be free, sort of speak, but at the same time have some type of security blanket, to know that there were some people watching over me if I had any problems,” Camp said. “They were there if I needed to call and talk to them, if I needed to turn to them. Really, it was a great program. I liked the Better Life program.” 

Asked why he was giving back to the drug program, Camp said he was indebted to it.

“A lot of people, when they start the drug court program, they have this mindset that these people are out to get them and they don’t like them because they are drug addicts,” he said. “If they really want to quit, if they really have it in their heart to quit, and they start accepting what they do, the key is to find acceptance in everything that you do. Then they can see these people are really not trying to hurt them. They’re trying to help them.”

Once he got out of jail, he said he wanted to do the right thing.

“I got in touch with (drug court officials) as soon as I got out,” he said. “Then while I was here, I learned about myself. I learned what made me tick. Thanks to them, I was able to find a way to live my life better. So I believe in it. I truly do.” 

Now drug free for years, Camp said he works as the lead electrician for Pro Light North America, which is based in Hoover.

“I’ve never felt better than what I do now,” he said.

In fact, his father’s death on Dec. 1 from lung cancer made him think about his own 2.5-pack-a-day smoking addition. In July, his wife Kalesha got him a vapor smoking system which has helped him cut down to a half-a-pack a day.

A recent change in his vapor system has allowed him to cut down even lower than that.

“I’ve quit the drugs. Now I am trying to quit smoking, too,” he said. “I feel really good.”