Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Offering hope to those who need it

I want Lawrence County to be a place of hope.

I want people who live here to feel hopeful about their futures and the future of our community. Hope is embodied in our new college facility, the work of our Substance Abuse Coalition, and events like “Second Saturdays” that will bring people to our Square.  “Hope” is even the name of our new botanical garden.

A program in our court system is designed to bring hope to those who need it badly: men and women whose substance abuse disorders have led them to commit felonies and are facing significant time in jail.

Lawrence County’s Recovery Court will offer those who qualify – as determined through an extensive assessment process - an opportunity to participate in a strict program of recovery instead of serving jail time.  

“Strict” means some will choose to serve their sentences instead. Recovery Court is a process that holds participants accountable through frequent, unannounced drug tests; home visits; intensive outpatient therapy (and residential treatment first, if detox is necessary); and appearance in court twice a month. They will be expected to live in a sober environment, improve their education and job skills, and pursue employment.  Participants who fail drug tests or don’t meet other expectations go back to jail.
Our Recovery Court will meet for the first time Monday, June 11 with about ten participants. Our plan is to enroll 20 during the first year; 30 is the maximum number that can be served at one time.

Recovery Court programs are run by a team of professionals that meet with participants and work together to make decisions about them.  Our team includes Circuit Court Judge David Allen, District Attorney Brent Cooper; Public Defender Claudia Jack; Recovery Court Graduate/Volunteer Steve Antle; Cpl. Keith Jacobs of the Lawrence County Jail; Christal Wise of LifeCare; SCHRA Community Corrections’ Tiffany Hayden; and SCHRA Director of Recovery Court and Community Corrections, Rebekah Provost-Emmons. I am also part of that team.
SCHRA (South Central Human Resources Agency) representatives have been part of the group since we started meeting regularly about a year ago. The agency’s Community Corrections program oversees the Recovery Court in Lincoln County and agreed to do the same for us. SCHRA received a state grant for our program which will pay expenses related to it, including drug testing and a coordinator’s salary.

The right Recovery Court Coordinator makes all the difference in these programs, and I believe we have the best. Tamara Robinson is a graduate of Trevecca Nazarene College and a Licensed Alcohol & Drug Addiction Counselor who worked at Buffalo Valley Treatment Center nine years. She is a recovering person herself, which makes her even more qualified for her job. 

Ms. Robinson will assess all potential Recovery Court participants and provide intensive outpatient therapy at the Lawrenceburg SCHRA office. She will make home visits, administer drug tests, make connections for education and job training, coordinate team meetings and provide information about participants’ progress, or lack thereof.

Team members are required to undergo extensive training conducted on the local, state, and national level.  Our team will be in Houston May 30 through June 2 for the annual NADCP (National Association of Drug Court Professionals) conference.
Eventually, Recovery Court programs will be established throughout the 22nd Judicial District - in Maury, Wayne and Giles counties. This is possible because Circuit Judge David Allen works throughout the district, and is willing to give his time to serve on recovery court teams in other counties as well. I believe it is significant that Lawrence County is the first to make this happen.

I have high hopes about the good Recovery Court can do for participants, their families, and our county. We will help residents recover from substance abuse disorders, address mental health needs, become productive citizens, and reunite families. We will give them hope.




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