Courtroom A at the Camden County Justice Center filled slowly as participants in a recent Camden County Drug Court trickled in, quietly taking a seats on the unforgiving wooden benches.

Courtroom A at the Camden County Justice Center filled slowly as participants in a recent Camden County Drug Court trickled in, quietly taking a seats on the unforgiving wooden benches.

Some fidgeted, others sat quietly, some were accompanied by a friend or parent. It was a mix of defendants facing either Driving While Intoxicated or drug-related cases.

One by one, each walked forward where a County Deputy administered a breathalyzer test. Urine tests were also administered in the privacy of a restroom down the hall.

Until recently, Camden and Morgan counties were among 22 of Missouri's 114 counties without an adult drug court. Judge Kenneth Hayden of the 26th Judicial Circuit last year ordered that drug courts be established in those two counties, serving all counties in the circuit. The Lake of the Ozarks region, which falls under jurisdiction of the 26th Judicial Circuit, was one of only two of 46 circuits without some form of adult drug treatment court.

According to the Missouri Supreme Court Drug Courts Coordination Commission, drug or treatment courts "are a cost-effective method for diverting offenders from incarceration in prisons" and "lower the recidivism rate of offenders when compared with either incarceration or probation."

Each defendant was called before Judge Aaron Koeppen in Camden County and was quizzed not only on the results of their court-ordered drug test but also on how they were progressing in the Drug Court program. The deputy corroborated the drug text results.

As part of the program, Judge Koeppen asked each defendant to write a letter to himself or herself for introspection at the end of the 18-24-month program.

"Put whatever you want in it, it's your letter," he said. "It will be sealed and then delivered to the prosecuting attorney who will hold it in confidence. It can't be used against you, and we will deliver it to you upon successful completion of the program."

"One of the most important things is showing up (at drug court)," Judge Koeppen told the defendants. "This team of individuals (drug court team) is using its resources on your behalf."

The goal is to have five participants from each county in the drug courts with offenders from Miller and Moniteau counties going to Morgan County, and those from Laclede and Camden counties handled in Camden County.

Graduates from drug court will have the opportunity to return as a mentor or sponsor to current participates in the program. Judge Koeppen has said he hopes to ask businesses and community organizations who would be willing to hire or use participants for employment or community service projects.

"I'm very excited for you," Judge Koeppen told each defendant.

But he cautioned them as well.

"The devil works with idle hands and you need to stay busy," he said, suggesting community service or employment. "Don't be idle."

The drug court team members will be an integral part of the offender's life, the judge noted, and there will be a curfew for everyone in the program.

"People will randomly stop by your houses to make sure you're being held accountable," Judge Koeppen said.

There will be dark moments coming," the judge told one offender, "and we've talked about this in the past. There's going to be a time in the near future that you're going to be tested more than you ever thought you would be. You need to learn how to deal with that. Make your decisions today when you're sober, while you're not faced with temptation and decide how you're going to react. Actually talk to yourself out loud."