"I think it's a trend. There's clearly new statewide recognition," says Morgan at the DA's office. "I think Denver and Colorado are recognizing that the traditional way of dealing with crimes fueled by addiction for the most part doesn't work."

Along the way, JI-DEF has generated impressive success stories. The husband-and-wife meth addicts who'd lost their kids to child services but have since cleaned up and won back their kids. Nikki, who smoked meth for years before getting busted with three-quarters of a pound of weed in her fridge; she now helps lead TASC peer-support groups and recently celebrated getting off probation. The couple that was living and dealing drugs in Civic Center Park, who now have stable housing and say they couldn't live without their LEA.

Not every story has a happy ending. "You walk away with your tail between your legs sometimes," Rajaee-Moore says. But still, she never slows down, never loses faith in her clients. "I don't know any other way," she admits.

Years of meth use took a toll on sisters Audrey, right, and Katie.
Anthony Camera
Years of meth use took a toll on sisters Audrey, right, and Katie.
Steve Addison (from left), Jennifer Corvalan and Lilas Rajaee-Moore are changing the way Denver deals with addicts.
Anthony Camera
Steve Addison (from left), Jennifer Corvalan and Lilas Rajaee-Moore are changing the way Denver deals with addicts.


Audrey's home is a whir of activity: boxes being unpacked, holes being drilled into the wall. Only this time, meth isn't fueling the action.

Audrey takes a Marlboro break, her pink toenails bright against the gray sidewalk outside her first-floor apartment, the first place she's had on her own in three years. Inside, her mom and a friend from rehab continue unpacking. A vase that Audrey jacked from some meth head is placed on a shelf, a framed poem put on a bookshelf Audrey and Katie built one night when they were high:

No farewells were spoken,

No time for goodbye,

You were gone before I knew it,

And only God knows why.

The elegy is a reminder of how close she came to being the subject of a requiem, how near she was to disappearing before anyone could say goodbye.

In April, Audrey came clean about her relapse to Corvalan and Rajaee-Moore — who turned her in for violating her probation. Rajaee-Moore convinced the judge to set Audrey's bond at an excessively high $25,000 so that she couldn't bond out and get back into trouble; while Audrey spent seven weeks in jail, Rajaee-Moore successfully lobbied for her to be sent to New Directions for Families, a rehab center designed for mothers, rather than the intensive, mandatory two-year program she was being considered for.

JI-DEF recognizes that slipping back into drugs is often part of getting clean. "I realized how slow the change is with drug addicts, how easy it is for them to slip into their old ways," says Addison, now a lieutenant. "We can support them as much as we can, but they ultimately have to be the ones to decide, 'I am not going to be a drug addict anymore.' Until they decide that, no magic bullet is going to work."

Audrey seems to have finally made that decision at New Directions for Families.

Since she was released from the rehab program last month, she's been going to school at Community College of Denver, training to become a drug counselor. "It's something I know," she says. "I've been through it, so I think I can help people. Plus, I think it will help me to keep my addiction in front of my face."

Audrey now has full custody of her children, who are working with play therapists at the Kempe Center. Their father spent six weeks in jail on a domestic-violence charge involving another woman; he's been assigned to JI-DEF, too.

Katie is also making progress. "I was just over relapsing and getting in trouble and worrying and lying," she says. Living with her mom and stepdad, she keeps excessively busy, working ten-hour days at her administrative job, taking drug tests, seeing a therapist. She meets regularly with Addison — "Steve-O," she calls him — and talks about what she wants to do with her life, sheepishly admitting to having a few drinks with her co-workers.

Looking back, the sisters are amazed that the folks with JI-DEF never once wrote them off. When one of them was on the run, Addison worked endless hours trying to track her down. Corvalan spent an entire Saturday making frantic phone calls and pulling strings so that Audrey would be transferred to the right treatment program. Rajaee-Moore took a phone call from Audrey on her wedding day this past summer: She married Cooper, who retired from the police force several years ago.

And Corvalan and Rajaee-Moore even spend their off-hours hanging out with Audrey and Katie, as the sisters left most of their friends behind in the drug community. "They are never mad at you," says Audrey. "They never tell you there is no hope."

An intensive program like JI-DEF requires incredible time and attention. Still, Morgan points out, "It's cheaper than sending them to prison."

And Audrey thinks that in the sisters' case, JI-DEF's investment of time and money paid off. "We couldn't have done it without them," she says. She thinks about the "lifers" she knows, the addicts who are sixty, seventy years old and still smoking meth. She thinks about some of the girls she and Katie used to hang with, who've now progressed from smoking meth to shooting it, a more devastating form of the drug. And she thinks about her friend who died in the car accident, the one who never got a chance to get clean, the one she visited on that first day of JI-DEF.

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