Brandy Wapato and Megan Emert hold certificates of completion from the Colville Tribal Courts Healing to Wellness Program Tuesday in Inchelium

PROGRAM COORDINATOR: To date, program has seen no recidivism

INCHELIUM – Colville Tribal members Brandy Wapato and Megan Emert became the seventh and eighth graduates of the Colville Tribal Court’s diversionary Healing to Wellness Court as Colville Tribal Judge Sophie Nomee signed their final paperwork at a ceremonial court event in Inchelium, Feb. 25.

“It’s more than recovery,” said the court’s Vito Marconi, speaking at the event. “This affects everybody, everybody in the community, not just their families but their friends and others around them. This is what Megan and Brandy have done over the last couple years after starting out sitting in oranges … It’s a ripple effect. A pebble in the water ripples through a whole pond, and that’s how recovery is going to change.”

With their families and friends in the audience, Colville tribal prosecutor Jackie Finley presented the dismissal of charges to Judge Nomee as the final action of the voluntary court program. 

Wapato and Emert received certificates of completion as well as traditional blankets from the court’s administrators. The Colville Tribal Peacemakers’ Circle also presented both with honorary blankets.

“This journey wasn’t easy,” said Emert, reading emotionally from a letter she wrote to the court. “It’ll never be easy. It is a constant reminder to take it day-by-day, minute-by-minute, and to remember self-care, which is exactly how I live my life now. I don’t take anything for granted and I cherish the good days, and I am able to prepare and handle the bad ones to come.

“I don’t know if you all would remember or even heard my letters to addiction that I wrote when I first started this program, while incarcerated, but I did. After re-reading them, it made me visualize better just how far I came, and how much things can change if you truly want them to and you work for it. Now, I see the world through a clearer lens than ever before.”

The program is offered as a diversionary program for non-violent drug and alcohol offenders in tribal courts through an agreement between the public defender’s office and the prosecutor’s office, and it is broken into four progressive phases.

In the first phase, the participants have three to five random urinary analyses weekly. They are required to attend self-help meetings, and they were required to be in services based on a chemical dependency evaluation’s recommendations. 

Also in the first phase, participants have weekly court dates and they must check in with Healing to Wellness administrators daily. As the phases progress the participants attend court less frequently and have less contact with the court’s administrators. Participants also work with community resources such as the Colville Tribal Peacemaker’s Circle.

Participants apply to move to the next phase of the program after 90 to 120 days in each phase. In the final phase, most participants are given the reins after having completed chemical dependency and outpatient programs.

To date, the program has graduated eight tribal members and has seen no recidivism, said the court’s John Hamilton.

“They’ll all doing fabulous,” said Hamilton. “We stay in contact. We keep up the support as much as we can, which everybody needs. We are in it for the long haul. We are working to change these people’s lives. We come alongside them, and it would be an injustice to just drop off. We definitely keep in touch with all of our graduates and even the others who haven’t successfully completed the program. We try hard to make it life-changing.”

Currently, there are seven tribal members actively progressing through the program, said Hamilton.

“This is definitely continuing to help with the communities,” said Hamilton. “It’s an uphill battle, but we are doing all we can. There is a lot of hope, and it radiates out into the community.”

The Colville Tribal Healing to Wellness Court follows best practices established by the National Drug Court Institute and Tribal Law and Policy Institute.

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