Jeffrey Holiday has seen the toll drug addiction takes on people’s lives. He’s also seen those same people turn their lives around.
And it’s that turnaround that propelled Holiday forward to study public health.
Shortly after taking a job as an administrative assistant for DeKalb County Drug Court in 2016, Holiday decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health. Working closely with people facing addiction and felony charges for non-violent crimes and seeing them avoid incarceration by completing the court’s two-year alternative sentencing program that includes drug screenings and treatment gave him a new perspective.
“It’s made me see substance abuse not so much as a criminal problem, but as a mental illness and public health problem,” said Holiday, who earned his master’s degree in health management and policy.
During graduate school, Holiday studied whether certain factors including race, age, marital status and education affected drug court participants’ chances of successfully completing the program. His research found that younger participants were less likely to finish and may be better suited by other substance abuse programs.
Holiday first became interested in the relationship between the judicial system and public health as an undergraduate at Georgia State who double majored in psychology and criminal justice. He hopes to continue his studies into how to make drug courts and other alternative courts more effective.
“I think it’s the future,” Holiday said. “We should be focusing more on treating the underlying illness than locking people up for what they did while they were addicts.”
—Story and photo by Kathleen Baydala Joyner