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Drug court grad praised as ‘quiet leader’

drug court, steele-waseca, judge joseph bueltel, jason house
Steele-Waseca Drug Court Judge Joseph Bueltel, right, congratulates Jason House on his graduation more than three years after starting the diversion program. House, who at the time had recorded 309 days of sobriety, was honored March 20 at the Steele County Courthouse. Staff photo by Joni Hubred
Joni Hubred, News Editor

While it may have taken him a little longer than most, Jason House last week took the final step of his journey through Steele-Waseca Drug Court.

House was honored during a ceremony March 20 at the Steele County Courthouse. He is the 102nd person to complete the rigorous program, which is offered as an alternative to incarceration for those considered high risk–likely to reoffend–or high need, with critical mental health issues.

In his own words, House said he started using drugs and alcohol at age 14, after his mother died. His first arrest came in 2003; he violated probation and went to jail in 2004. That began a tumultuous period in his life, which came to a screeching halt with his first felony drug arrest in 2019 and a felony DUI in 2020.

“My life before drug court was a mess,” House said.

While in his first in-patient treatment program, he was introduced to EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy, which helped him process his feelings. After 30 days, House returned to the drug court program and completed it with more than 900 days of sobriety.

Now, he said, he feels much closer to his family and has helped other people stay sober. House’s plans include becoming a peer recovery specialist.

Before the ceremony, Chief Judge Joseph Bueltel had all drug court participants talk about what they’ve done to stay sober, the choices they’ve made, and how they’re being responsible for what they put in their bodies.

Meeting regularly with Bueltel is only part of the rigorous program, which works in five phases, from working on sobriety to making a solid connection with the recovery community. Along the way, participants must drug test multiple times each week, find stable housing, actively seek employment, seek treatment for any mental health problems, and get their driver’s license back–among many other requirements.

“It’s a big commitment,” Drug Court coordinator Nicole Grams said. “When I talk to people, I let them know this is going to be a lot, lot harder than serving your sentence.”

About half of those who choose drug court are removed from the program, she said, adding that House “has continued to choose the program” over the three years and three months it took him to finish.

Bueltel noted the large number of guests–family and friends–who attended the ceremony.

“I’m really proud of where you’re at today,” he said. “All the people that are here are a testament to your quiet leadership.”

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