NESPELEM - The recidivism rate for the Colville Tribal Court’s Healing to Wellness Program is zero, meaning no Colville Tribal member who has completed the four phases of the Healing to Wellness program has recommitted, according to program administrator Jon Hamilton.
“That’s really exciting,” said Hamilton. “We actually get through to them. They have to want it, and once they buy into the program, there is no turning back it doesn’t seem like. That goes to be shown with our recidivism rate. It’s very, very gratifying as an individual who loves people and loves to help people, especially our indigenous people. Of course during the program there are people who
stumble, and we pick them back up. We’ve had three people who stumbled too far for them to be picked back up, but of our graduates the recidivism rate is zero.”
The Healing to Wellness Court celebrated the successful completion of the program by Colville Tribal members Therese Donley and Jason Pakootas, Aug. 25, in a small hearing at the Colville Tribal Court building.
“This is an end of a long journey,” Hamilton said, addressing the two graduates during the hearing. “You guys have done it. Everyone here is very proud of both of you. This is not a joke. This is not something where you can just go through the motions. This is work, and you have put in the work to get to graduation, so congratulations.”
Both graduates were allowed to bring their young children into the court.
“This is just a start,’” said Judge Sophie Nomee. “The changes you’ve made, I’m proud of you. The obstacles you’ve jumped through. The struggles will come up throughout your life, but you have the faith and strength to get through them … Hopefully this will trickle down to your families. It all starts with you and your belief in yourself.”
To date, the program has been funded through a Department of Justice/Bureau of Justice Assistance Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation Grant.
“Like a computer, update yourself frequently, who you are in your mind, heart and soul, with your family, with your friends, who you should not be contacting,” said Colville tribal elder Darlene Wilder, speaking as a Colville Tribal Peacemaker. “It’s okay to say no… My mom always told me, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ You’re no good to anybody else if you can’t help yourself.”
Colville Tribal Prosecutor Office’s Jackie Finley presented the dismissal of charges with prejudice to Judge Sophie Nomee as the final action in the voluntary program.
“Two years ago when I got in the program, I was bad,” said Donley. “I was bad. I had already given up. I figured this was just my life. I never, ever, ever dreamed I would be where I am right now. I didn’t know how to start. All I knew was the drugs. Healing to Wellness gave me the tools, they showed me guidance and they helped me to heal. I did have some bumps in the road. I’m not perfect, none of us are, but now I will never give up. I will always fight, and I will always heal.”
Currently two additional tribal members are in the program.
“I just want everyone to know that I am truly thankful for everything everyone helped me with,” said Pakootas. “Being sober and clean has changed my life in so many ways. My daughters have noticed the changes I have made. I never want them to grow up with an alcoholic for a dad. I feel truly blessed for the opportunity that you guys gave me.”
The Healing to Wellness Court was first announced in Aug. 2017, and the court saw their first graduates in Jan. 2019.
The Healing to Wellness Court is offered as a diversionary program for non-violent drug and alcohol offenders in Colville Tribal Courts through an agreement between the public defender’s office and the prosecutor’s office.
The program is broken into four progressive phases that start with participants having to take three to five random urinary analyses weekly, attending self-help meetings, completing services based on a chemical dependency evaluation’s recommendations and attending weekly court sessions. Participants 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.