End of Year Report for Healing to Wellness Court
By Susan Aasen Court Coordinator
I am submitting this program report following the submittal of the Healing to Wellness 4th Quarter Report to the federal government, US Department of Justice.
History of Healing to Wellness Grant
The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board adopted Tribal Resolution # 17 – 123: Declaration of a State of Emergency Because of the Abuse of Prescription, Synthetic and Illegal Drugs in response to the epidemic occurring in the tribal community caused by abuse of methamphetamine, heroin and illegal drugs. Resolution is attached. This grant was funded in 2018 and training started in Fall 2018.
Operation of Healing to Wellness Program
Since my start date of April 1, 2019 as Coordinator, the focus of our efforts was to organize a functioning Healing to Wellness Court Program. In July 2019, we requested approval from the US Department of Justice to advance the operating schedule by 2 ½ years. With the assistance of our consultants from the Penobscot Tribe in Maine, the grant adjustment was submitted on or shortly after June 6, 2019. The grant adjustment request was promptly approved by the federal government. A Steering Committee was established early in the process of creating the Healing to Wellness Court. There was a concern that too many groups would be at the table because I extended invitations to numerous LCO Tribal programs and entities. The entities participating are numerous and they fully endorse the program.
The Steering Committee is comprised of Directors of the programs and this group meets every quarter. We just completed the first quarter meeting on October 21, 2019. The entities at the table are: LCO Indian Child Welfare, LCO School k-12; Tribal Assistance for Needy Indian Families; LCO Police; Department of Corrections - Probation and Parole; Oakwood Haven Domestic Abuse Shelter; Vocational Rehab; Gweyako Bimadiziiwin (Young Men’s Leadership); Mary Moose and Abe Moose, Cultural Advisors; Jeff Tribble, Tribal Court Advocate; LCO Housing; Coordinated Community Services (CCS); LCO Clinic; Mino Maajisewin Home Visitation Program, LCO Headstart; and the Bizhiki Program.
We established a Healing to Wellness Case Planning Committee that meets every 2 weeks on Mondays. Each tribal program is represented by a designee of the Program Director, including a Wisc. Probation and Parole Agent. I send out a reminder letter to each Program Representative about the upcoming meetings. A sample letter is attached. We discuss the applicants who apply for Admission to the Healing to Wellness Court Program. Once admitted, the participant progress is discussed every two weeks.
The very next day on Tuesdays, we conduct a Tribal Court Hearing. All the participants admitted in the program are in Tribal Court sitting next to each other. Our hearings are conducted in a circle as in Ojibwe traditional way of life. Most times, there is very little seating open for the professionals to participate. The court hearing is started with an offering of tobacco which each person puts into a basket for their prayers. The Cultural Advisor is fluent in the Ojibwe language and she says a prayer in Ojibwe while tobacco is passed around.
The hearing on Tuesdays can be very emotional because the struggles of drug addiction by participants are openly shared. There are many efforts of support shown by the professionals in our circle. Everybody is both proud of the participants and hopeful that the successes of drug free behavior continue among the participants. Sometimes the Wellness Team recommends a sanction for behavior that is a concern and the Tribal Court Judge issues a sanction. It is more often that the Wellness Team provides a good level of incentives for participants in accomplishing their goals toward sobriety.
All the court participants struggle with lack of available housing. In addition, most of the participants have lost custody of their children. As a result of Wellness Court, parents are now engaged in visiting their children. Such visits would not have happened as promptly as a regularly scheduled Child Protection/Indian Child Welfare court hearing that is spaced as far out as 60-90 days.
The program policies and procedures were provided by Judge Mehnert and his court staff from the Penobscot Tribe. We changed the information to reflect Lac Court Oreilles. A referral form is attached for your review. Thus far, the following Policies and Procedures were developed:
Tribal Council Resolution # 19-79 Directing Tribal Entities to participate
Steering Committee Goals and Objectives
Policies and Procedures
Oath of Confidentiality
Healing to Wellness Referral
Participant Handbook Receipt and Acknowledgement Form
Drug Testing Procedure
Authorization for Release of Information
Petition for Admission into LCO Wellness Court
Order for Admission into LCO Court
Pre-Hearing Progress Report
Pre-Hearing Court Report
LCO Wellness Court Program Contract
LCO Wellness Court Hearing Notice
Participant Contact Note
LCO Wellness Court Verification of Meeting Attendance
Community Service Work Registry
Reports in each participant’s file include:
Alcohol and Other Drug Assessments from CCS, Sawyer County AODA or other providers
Mental Health Evaluation completed by CCS or other providers
Urinalysis screens completed by other providers and the Healing to Wellness Program
Criminogenic analysis by Probation and Parole where referral originates from Corrections
The Tribal Court staff attended the National Drug Court of Professionals. This training conference occurred in Washington D.C. in July 2019. Judge Mehnert and his team were at the same conference.
I attended the training provided by the Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) in September 2019. This training was very relevant for Healing to Wellness Courts. Next year in 2020, the entire Tribal Court staff plan on attending the annual TLPI Conference.
Quarterly Reports Filed
To date, there have been four quarterly reports filed with the Department of Justice. The most recent report was filed in October 2019. Each report has been successfully accepted and noted as complete in the grant report status with the Department of Justice grants office.
Current number of Participants are documented as follows:
6_ Individuals admitted by Tribal Court Order into the Healing to Wellness Court. Tribal Court hearing every 2 weeks
7_ Individuals with pending applications. Some need alcohol and drug assessments with no program resources available
2_ Declined applications for violent criminal record
0_ Declined applications due to sexual offense
4_ Other applications declined for non-eligibility reasons
(1) sentenced to prison
(1) withdrew from Healing to Wellness Program and indicates intent to return
(2) not a good fit for the purpose of the program
Compliance by Participants
Compliance by participants in the Healing to Wellness Tribal Court Program is determined by an individualized case plan that is a mutually agreed upon plan between the Case Manager and the Participant. Each participant generally must meet the Case manager at least 3 times each week to stay focused upon the wholistic case /treatment plan. The case plan includes some hours of cultural activities and community service.
Each participant must be willing to attend recovery meetings and appointments, have regular weekly urine screenings, attend court appearances, meet all case plan obligations, work cooperatively with Child Protection and Indian Child welfare, also comply with obligations with the Department of Probation and Parole.
One participant was required to enter Detox for several days as this person had relapsed while in the Healing to Wellness Tribal Court Program.
Tribal court hearings conducted in a circle. Cultural advisor begins the court hearing with a prayer in the Ojibwe language while tobacco is passed among the professional and program participants. The program participants and the Healing to Wellness Program staff are actively engaged in community cultural activities such as a monthly sweat lodge ceremony, arts and crafts at the Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, Ghost Feast honoring one who has passed away, gathering evergreen boughs from the forest and offering tobacco for appreciation of the gift before the natural resource is taken, attending a recent “Ojibwe legends of the Stars – an indigenous astronomy story” presentation. One most important event in the lives of the Healing to Wellness program is a naming ceremony for two people and their children. This event will provide a foundation in Ojibwe culture which will strengthen their sobriety and recovery. Regalia sewing for participant children will happen in January 2020.
Community Meetings and Outreach
Community newspaper articles covered the Healing to Wellness Program in depth. On June 7, 2019, the Lac Courte Oreilles News indicated that the first Advisory meeting was held on May 30, 2019. A lengthy article was composed with all the tribal court staff having input. Additionally, on August 30, 2019, the newspaper documented the first participant entering the Healing to Wellness Program.
Judge Mehnert and I met with the Sawyer County District Attorney and the Criminal Justice Committee Coordinator at least 2 times in the beginning of the program. There was an additional meeting which included the Tribal Court judge and Tribal Court Administrator. Contact with the Coordinator of the Criminal Justice Coordinator is ongoing.
The professionals in Sawyer County immediately were supportive of our efforts. Following one of the meetings, the Sawyer County Alcohol and Other Drug (AODA) Director provided the first referral to the Wellness Court Program.
WOJB hosted a morning show with the entire Healing to Wellness Tribal Court Program. Judge Eric Mehnert and his team attended and participated.
On August 29, 2019 at New Post (Report about Feast is attached)
On November 2, 2019, the Tribal Governing Board conducted a General Membership Meeting. The TGB requested that I update the tribal membership about the program. I spent about 30 minutes sharing information.
Biziki Wellness Center (CCS building) provides a monthly feast. The Healing to Wellness Program attends this feast with participants from the Healing to Wellness Program.
The Prevention Coalition has conducted community activities and the Healing to Wellness Program actively supports and participates in these efforts.
The Lac Courte Oreilles tribal community makes continuous contact with Healing to Wellness staff as the daily communications are made on behalf of participants and referrals from the tribal families.
Every Healing to Wellness participant is without adequate housing. The search for housing
throughout Sawyer County and adjacent Counties is ongoing. Rent vouchers through the local social service agencies are available but there is a shortage of housing in Lac Courte Oreilles and the local county jurisdiction. There exists a shortage of temporary sober housing in the area that could provide a healthy environment for newly recovering people.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation is comprised of 63,490.78 acres as verified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Lac Courte Oreilles Real Estate Services. These lands can be broken down into 29,212.10 acres of trust lands held for the tribe; 22,327.96 acres of individual heirship/allotted lands and 11,950.72 acres of tribally owned fee simple lands owned by the tribe. Namekagon Transit is far short as a solution. A participant must ride for at least 2 hours on the route to arrive for a 1-hour appointment. Tokens can be obtained for participants who live on the route where it operates. Many issues about the lack of availability in some villages and scheduling.
The participant afflicted with drug addiction is not focused on employment. Each participant admitted into the Healing to Wellness Program is expected to be fully available for all the program requirements in Phase 1 for at least 90 days. In most cases, the participants do not have full time employment. As the Healing to Wellness Program assists participants graduating to Phase 2 of Personal Responsibility, access to jobs becomes an issue. Lack of available part time jobs in the Lac Courte Oreilles tribal community is one of the barriers when recovery from drug abuse is occurring. Referrals to local programs for employment and education will be provided. Networking with the agencies is helpful for both the program and participants.
Participants have a need for access to financial assistance to pay on fines and attempt to get an Occupational License. Two programs in the area that receive funding for such needs are the Vocational Rehabilitation program and the application process is lengthy. The Food Stamp Employment and Training Program is another source of some financial assistance. In some cases, the Sawyer County court system-imposed fines that exceed thousands of dollars making it impossible to assist people. The Healing to Wellness Program recently sponsored a Taco Fundraiser to assist.
Participants struggle with poorly operating vehicles without employment resources to keep old vehicles running. The Healing to Wellness staff attempts to make transit tokens available; coordinate with medical transport; request assistance from the CCS program, which is very limited. Vehicles are neither registered properly nor insured.
Medically Assisted Treatment
There is no Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) program at the Lac Courte Oreilles Clinic. The closest program is the North Lakes Clinic in Hayward with a 3-6 week waiting list. The next clinic is the Bad River Tribal Clinic which has its own challenges of transportation and scheduling visits in another service area with medical staff for the treatment medicine: suboxone. There is no clear plan when Lac Courte Oreilles Clinic will have the necessary (MAT) program in place.
Child Custody Advocacy
Consistency in visitation is very important between both the social service agency and the parent. However, changing the visit times at the last moment creates frustration and distrust. The Healing to Healing to Wellness Tribal Court Program tries to obtain ICW case plans for participants.
Wellness Program staff attempts to meet the Child Protection/Indian Child welfare Program on a week-monthly basis to clarify any issues with communication.
The Lac Courte Oreilles tribal community has actively implemented various sober activities and feasts. There is a documented increase of public education sessions, meetings scheduled in such places as CCS, and warm weather outdoor activities. However, there is a lack of space for recovery meetings in the tribal community for narcotics anonymous and alcohol sobriety support meetings.
Cultural Activities Supplies
A budget for supplies and instruction at $15,000.00 was developed for the final two hears of the Healing to Wellness grant. The lack of supplies is a barrier to assisting in the recovery process for participants who are required in their case plan to engage in cultural activities. No grant funds for cultural activities.
Incentives for Successful Participants
The Tribal Court recently requested assistance for the Tribal Governing Board for funding to assist the participants on a regular basis. When the tribal court hearings are conducted every two weeks, the participants are gifted with an incentive for their accomplishments in recovery. Presently, the gifts are paid through the personal contributions of the court staff.
The Lac Courte Oreilles tribal Court is severely lacking in space to administer an efficient Healing to Wellness Program. The Case Manager was placed in a storage closet for her office. There is little space to accommodate more than 2 people in this room.
Space to conduct participant meetings such as Narcotics Support meetings, weekly group meetings for Life Coping discussions is hampered by location and timing of the tribal office schedule. A meeting may be scheduled in the only available location of the Tribal Courtroom, but the priority must be for court hearings.
Grant Management Activities
Objectives and Activities
· Tracking the completion of grant activities in ongoing
· Tribal Court Strategic Plan review is ongoing
· Evaluation of Tribal Court processes and data collection is ongoing
· Tribal Action Plan must be presented to the Tribal Governing Board for adoption. This action will enable the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe to become eligible for additional finds to cover tribal program needs. A Memo request to get the Tribal Action Plan adopted was sent to the Tribal Governing Board in November 2019.
· Budget segregation for three years
· Contracts near completion
· Grant Funding/ Research is ongoing. Meetings with the Grants Department is occurring.
Department of Justice and SAMHSA are the best grant sources.
· Committee training is planned for January 2020
I anticipate that the Healing to Wellness Program will exceed the grant participants of 12 each year. The challenge to completion of all the program goals is that we are working with high risk individuals. There are many needs of the participants that the Healing to Wellness Program cannot adequately fulfill. We are accepting all the referrals and each applicant is provided an opportunity to become a participant in the program. The Case Planning Team is very sensitive to the needs of the participants and many solutions are offered at each meeting. The Healing to Wellness Program is beneficial for tribal members.