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Douglas County drug court coordinator retires

Posted at 7:06 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 20:06:54-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Wednesday marked a day full of hope and second chances for some Douglas County residents--and also a day to reflect, as the man who was there when drug court started is retiring.

The choice between a life of drugs and sober living can be difficult to break.

Mickey Skelton knows what that's like--she joined drug court in august 2017 to get out of jail.

Now, she's found herself again, gained her family, and is graduating drug court.

“I went in kicking and screaming. I didn't want to do it," said Skelton. “It has changed my life 100%. It has taught me to trust myself again… it has taught me to trust other people."

Since 1997, more than 2,000 people have graduated in Douglas County.

Paul Yakel has met pretty much all of them.

“It's been quite a journey these last 22 years overall,” said Yakel.

He's been with the program since it began… and coordinator since 2003.

“That's why you do it--to see successes, to see them get the sparkle back in their eye, get life back in their blood stream and to start doing what they're supposed to be doing in a healthier sense,” said Yakel.

He's retiring with a lot of fond memories. An honorary graduate himself, with a stable program that struggled with funding in the beginning.

“Paul is the only person around that was here at the inception,” said Judge Gary Randall of the Douglas County District Court. “So he's had the history, he's brought a lot of the credibility, he's helped develop the policies--and it's going to be a big loss."

It’s a rigorous program to make sure people comply, and when they graduate, the charges are formally dismissed.

Teresa Bunjer has now taken over as coordinator for drug court in Douglas County.