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Drug Court graduates share day with retiring probation officer

ROANOKE – For 17 years, Michael J. Fosbre helped turn lives around.

Fosbre, who lives in Vinton with his wife, Carla, is better known as the “Drug Court guy.” There was a big ceremony for him when retired Dec. 28 as senior probation officer in the 23rd judicial Circuit of Virginia after a total of 31 years with Virginia courts. It was fitting that Fosbre shared the event with 19 graduates of Drug Court.

Roanoke City Circuit Court Judge Charlie Dorsey, left, congratulates retiring Drug Court probation officer Michael Fosbrey during Drug Court graduation ceremonies and Fosbre's retirement on Dec. 28. Photo by Meg Hibbert

Fosbre holds the distinction of the longest continuously serving person with a Drug Court in the History of the Commonwealth. Fosbre served for 17 years in that position and during that time, more than 700 women and men have graduated from Drug Court.

“He has probably left more footsteps and fingerprints around this valley than anybody can imagine,” said Roanoke County Supervisor Joe Butch Church, speaking of Fosbre’s influence.

Church presented a proclamation to Fosbre on behalf of the Roanoke County board. Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess presented a proclamation signed by Mayor Randy Foley, proclaiming Dec. 28 as Michael J Fosbre Day in the City of Salem.

Not to be upstaged, Roanoke City Vice Mayor Sherman Lea presented a medal Fosbre promptly announced he wasn’t taking off “because it fits my neck,” and a resolution making it Fosbre Day in Roanoke.

Salem Delegate Greg Habeeb read a statement from Gov. Bob McDonald, thanking Fosbre, and Habeeb told the graduates Thank you for showing the responsibility You have been willing to take control of your lives Don’t let it end today.”

And Presiding Judge Charlie Dorsey of Salem hugged Fosbre.

Fosbre shared the limelight last week with 19 people who were graduating from Drug Court. The year-plus program offers hope and a future instead of a felony conviction for people who do what they’re supposed to do: become clean and sober for a minimum of eight months and are employed or full-time students.

They get to that point by starting off with daily reporting to court officials and counseling, attending three Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week, paying $450 in treatment fees and an equal amount in supervision fees; going through regular urine screenings, and completing a community service project to help other people.

In the graduation ceremony last week, it was brought out that of the 19 graduates, four drug-free babies were born, 14 were woking full or part time, many have worked out old relationships, one purchased a home and one completed high school.

The Commonwealth gained $39,000 as a result of this group of graduates.

“It’s not a drug problem. It’s a thinking problem,” Fosbre told the graduates.

The Roanoke City Courtroom was filled with proud relatives, as well as those who came to wish Fosbre well.

Two of the graduates spoke about what having the second chance of Drug Court meant to them. As it happened, both were from the Salem area.

Twice while he talked to the crowd, Clinton W. Showalter of Salem buried his head on the podium as he choked back tears. He started off with prescription drugs for arthritis, and moved on to more drugs, he said, “And I was going down the wrong way. I got in trouble last year around November. Drug Court was the best thing that could have happened to me. I’ve been clean and sober for the last year.” It was life changing, for sure,” he said.

After the ceremony, a Salem mother proudly proclaimed, “My daughter was lost to me. Now I have my daughter back. She and and her husband are both doing great. We’re so proud of them,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified in order not to jeopardize her daughter’s business.

Her daughter explained to the gathering she and her husband began using drugs to dull the pain after they lost their first child, then a second baby and miscarried a third all within five years.

“We were making methadone and in 2011 our house was raided twice. We spent 24 days in jail. I chose to go to NA. I’ve been clean almost a year and my husband got a great new job,” she said. My simple advice to you is ‘Don’t use.’ ”

Graduates got a standing ovation from the crowd.


About the author

Meg Hibbert

Meg Hibbert held the position of editor of the Salem Times-Register and The New Castle Record from July 1999 - July 2014. She won more than two dozen awards from the Virginia Press Association for feature writing, columns, business articles, health and environmental writing and education coverage. She and her husband, Bill, live in Salem and are avid University of Georgia Bulldogs.

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