A Kenosha woman who changed her life and now inspires others received quite the surprise on Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly Petrusky, a 2020 graduate of Kenosha County Treatment Court, was the surprise guest at a celebration of her accomplishments. She has been sober for over two years and now sponsors others struggling with addiction.
In October 2017, Petrushy was arrested by Kenosha police for substance abuse issues which resulted in her going through treatment court. She enrolled in January 2018 and graduated in the fall of 2020, which equates to approximately 138 weeks in the program.
“His time on the program has had ups and downs, like every trip, and has also been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Jodi Meier, who oversees the program. When Petrusky graduated, all she had for a celebration was a virtual Zoom session due to in-person restrictions.
“It’s not the same as being in person,” Meier said. “You didn’t have a lot of your supporters or your family or your friends who were able to join in on this.”
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Petrusky, 45, was unexpectedly celebrated in Meier’s courtroom on Wednesday by family, friends, local officials, law enforcement officials and Vin Baker, an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Kelly has since continued to not only maintain her sobriety, she has become a shining example of the goodness of the treatment court program by becoming a pillar of support and leadership in the Kenosha recovery community as well as others who may take a similar journey of their own,” Meier said. “Kelly persevered and is proof that this program works.”
An artist, Petrusky has shared his journey on podcasts, led recovery meetings and served as a mentor to those going through the treatment court program.
“You had nothing to do with any of that, not at all,” Meier said. “She’s gone above and beyond since graduating. Today is her chance to shine and get that well-deserved recognition that she really didn’t get on Zoom.
Petrusky said she never expected to receive such a celebration.
“It’s amazing,” she said.
Baker, who also struggled with addiction, spoke via Zoom at the celebration.
“Kelly, congratulations… You should be so proud and so happy. This is such an amazing and amazing achievement. It’s the best thing that can happen to our recovering lives,” he said. I’ve had a similar journey to sobriety and when I hear those incredible stories, and read your story, when I see those incredible stories, it feels so good to my soul and my heart.”
Baker asked Petrusky to paint something of her own for her new recovery center in Milwaukee and invited her to a Bucks game.
“We have a deal,” Petrusky said. “Thanks for that.”
Kenosha Police Department officer Matt Elm, one of the officers who arrested Petrusky in October 2017, said he was proud of her.
“Usually we deal with people on their worst days, unfortunately,” Elm said via Zoom. “I just want to congratulate you Kelly on your graduation. You are very beautiful. Keep it up and stay strong. It looks like you are helping others through their situations and I’m sure you can relate to them and try to help them as much as you can. Congratulations and thanks for having me. We don’t always see the end result after arresting someone. We see them on their worst day and (now) I see you in one of your better days.
Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Ray Rowe, who runs the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, asked Petrusky if she would be willing to help educate teens about substance abuse and substance abuse.
Rowe said not everyone had the strength of Petrusky to carry on and “be an inspiration to others.”
“It’s so reassuring to see people like you,” he said, asking her to share her story with high school students. Petrusky accepted the offer.
Petrusky received a framed certificate. She also explained two renderings of a woman to those present.
A “before” painting depicts “the shame” of the “bad decisions I was making,” Petrusky said. The “after” painting represents “being free from all that held me back”.
About the program
The Kenosha County Treatment Court offers eligible, non-violent offenders with substance abuse issues the opportunity to avoid jail time by completing an intensive court-monitored treatment program that includes counseling, drug testing, supervision by a team of court officials and frequent checks in the courtroom. The program lasts at least a year and it is not easy to complete it.
The Kenosha County Drug Court began in 2008. In 2016, the Kenosha County Drug Court absorbed the Behavioral Health Treatment Court and was renamed the Kenosha County Treatment Court.
Brian Bynsdorp, treatment court coordinator for the Kenosha County Division of Aging, Disability and Behavioral Health Services, said such programs help save lives.
“They are the most effective criminal justice intervention for severely addicted offenders,” Bynsdorp said in a statement. “They save money, reduce crime, treat substance use disorders, address mental health needs, provide services for lifelong recovery, provide education, employment and housing, produce productive and tax-paying citizens, break the cycle of dependency in families, reduce the risk of recidivism. -arrests and reincarcerations, reduce substance use and overdoses, reduce emergency room admissions, reduce foster care placements, etc.