Wind River Wellness Court To Be Re-Established

Jul 25, 2019

Credit NPR

The Wind River Wellness Court stopped operating after the reservation's joint Business Council disbanded in 2014. But officials from the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes say funding from the state of Wyoming and Bureau of Indian Affairs could help get it back up-and-running as early as this summer.

Like a traditional drug court, the goal of the program is to keep non-violent drug and alcohol offenders out of the criminal justice system and help them focus on long-term recovery.

"Those two areas don't always run in parallel," said Leslie Shakespeare, Vice-Chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council. "They can actually be problematic for individuals because they feel like if they start telling their issues in a recovery aspect that they'll be punished for it. I think the Wellness Court walks that line."

The Wellness Court will combine addiction treatment, mental health care and punitive measures with traditional healing practices, such as participating in ceremonies and listening to elders share their stories.

"A lot of the issues that are coming through our [tribal] court system are drug and alcohol related," Shakespeare said. "It's a priority of both tribes to make sure that the individual isn't a repeat offender, so we don't just continue the cycle of people coming in and out of the court system for the same issues."

The Wellness Court will include separate programs for adults and youth under the age of 18. This spring, a trial-run of the court had a graduation rate of over 80 percent.