Cass County/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Wellness Court (CCLLWC), which was created in 2006 in Walker, Minnesota, is a collaborative effort between a state criminal court and a tribal court that is designed to combat drug and alcohol addiction. The CCLLWC is a post-sentencing, driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) court. The mission of CCLLWC is to improve public safety by providing the case management and coordination of substance abuse intervention with judicial oversight and enhanced supervision to eligible participants, while maintaining individuals’ accountability for the offenses they committed. Program goals are to 1) reduce criminal behavior and recidivism, 2) enhance public safety, 3) enhance the well-being of participants, and 4) reduce criminal justice costs associated with chemical use and criminal behavior.
The target population for the CCLLWC are Cass County and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe residents, 18 years of age or older, who have committed multiple DWI offenses and have been determined to be chemically dependent. All participants must voluntarily agree to participate in the program.
In addition to a chemical dependency diagnosis, in order to be considered eligible for CCLLWC, participants must be 1) physically and mentally able to actively take part in the program; 2) willing to sign a treatment contract that includes regular urine screens, group and individual counseling, and additional services as needed; 3) willing to sign confidentiality releases; 4) able to attend all scheduled treatments; 5) willing to seek employment and/or enroll in an educational program; and 6) willing to accept court sanctions.
CCLLWC is intended to last a minimum of 24 months for felony cases and 18 months for gross misdemeanor cases and has at least three phases. Phase 1 is the treatment stage (a minimum of 3 months), during which participants must successfully complete a chemical assessment and treatment program. Phase 2 is the transition stage (a minimum of 6 months), during which participants must apply recovery skills to sustain sobriety and maintain an individualized case plan. Phase 3 is the living well stage (a minimum of 12 months for individuals who committed felonies and 6 months for individuals who committed gross misdemeanors), during which participants must continue to abstain and maintain recovery to live a chemical-free lifestyle. Program participants are required to attend court sessions once every 2 weeks during Phases 1 and 2, and once per month during Phase 3.
Services and types of treatment required for all participants are based on assessed level of care and include self-help meetings. Other services and types of treatment required for some participants include detoxification, outpatient individual or group treatment sessions, relapse prevention, language- or culture-specific programs, employment assistance, and education assistance. Drug testing is required for all participants; it can be random testing and any participant can be ordered to take a drug test for cause.
The majority of case management is performed by the probation officer. Participants have contact with their probation officers through home or office visits or by phone on a regular basis; the frequency of contact is set by the program phase. Participants are given a written list of incentives/rewards as well as a list of possible sanctions and behaviors that lead to sanctions. Rewards and sanctions are tracked by the DWI court coordinator and probation officer.
Overall, participants usually take approximately 20 months to successfully complete the program. Participants must be alcohol- and drug-free for a minimum of 180 days before graduating from the program, complete community service, pay all court fees, have alcohol free housing, pay all fees not related to court, and attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) panel. Participants also have to write a relapse-prevention plan before leaving the program and continue to be on standard probation for 6 months to 1 year after graduating.
CCLLWC’s integrated team includes two judges (one judge from the Ninth Judicial District and one judge from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Court), a DWI court coordinator, an assistant county attorney, two probation officers, a chemical health assessor, a deputy from the sheriff’s office and multiple treatment provider representatives from the Leech Lake Reservation. Most CCLLWC team members have received training specifically on the drug court and DWI court model, the target population for the program, and program sanctions and incentives.
Staffing sessions to discuss participants and their progress are held every 2 weeks, and court hearings (with an average of 15 participants seen by the judges) are held weekly. CCLLWC also has a policy committee that meets outside of staffing sessions to discuss program issues. The committee consists of all team members who attend staffing and court sessions.