54A celebrates sobriety court graduation

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

"We are here to recognize our graduates who have worked hard on the long journey to a healthy, sober lifestyle," said Honorable Louise Alderson, Sobriety Court Judge for 54A District Court, opening the Sobriety Court graduation ceremony.

This year's event, held on June 20th, included a special recognition for Barbara Lawrence, with Life Journeys, a treatment provider for the court. Lawrence, who has been delivering services since 2007, came forward to receive a Certificate of Appreciation from the court.

"She is preparing to go on her own life journey," said Judge Alderson. "She is retiring. She has been such an important piece of our team, that we wanted to recognize her today for her commitment to the Sobriety Court Team."

Lawrence, who has been working in the field for 27 years, thanked for the Judge for the opportunity to provide services and said, "I have been blessed to work in this field."

"I note that in our graduation today we have an empty chair," said Judge Alderson. "That chair was for one of our graduates who was working well in the program but (recently) she had an issue come up, she drank, drove and was arrested for drunk driving."

The court, she explained, understands issues of relapse and tries to provide structure for everyone to move forward, however, addiction is extremely difficult and relapse is always a possibility. Those that graduate from the program have worked long and hard to reach this day and everyone recognizes that recovery is a life-long process.

Heather Duhosky, Sobriety Court Probation Officer, called the five graduates individually to the front of the court to present them with their certificate. Each was accompanied with their family, friends and treatment providers.

Following the recognition of each graduate, Judge Alderson closed the ceremony giving each graduate a pin representing the Healthy Lifestyles Puzzle that symbolizes the 54A Sobriety Court program. Indicating the piece representing the Sobriety Court Team, she commented, "For some of you who are at the end of the two year probation, this piece will drop away and you will have to replace this piece and move forward on your own. The pin is a reminder that there are always others around you to assist."

54A's Sobriety Court program utilizes court and community resources to support individuals in developing and maintaining a substance free, sober lifestyle. Departments assisting include 54A probation with Heather Duhosky, Sobriety Court Probation Officer, and Robin Osterhaven, Sobriety Court Coordinator. Other members of the team include the treatment providers, a defense attorney, the Ingham County Prosecutor, the Ingham County Sheriff's Department and the Lansing Police Department.

Graduates must complete the required four phases of the program, which include:

Phase I: Beginning your sober lifestyle (12 week min)--weekly judicial review and meetings with probation officer, substance abuse counseling, random drug screening, 12 step meetings, random home visits, journaling and payments to the court.

Phase 2: Creating your healthy living plan (12 week minimum)--judicial review every four weeks, meet with probation officer every two weeks, community service, complete a 'Healthy living plan and continue all other programs listed in phase 1.

Phase 3: Working your healthy living plan (12 week min.)--Judicial review every six weeks, meet with probation every two weeks, 20 hours community service, 3month reviews with counselors and continue all other programs listed in phase 1.

Phase 4: Giving back, preparation for transition (16 week min.)--Judicial review every eight weeks, meet with probation officer monthly, 3 month reviews with counselors, continue all programs in Phase 1, pay court fees in full and update your plan.

A Graduation ceremony is held when all phases completed and all fines, costs and restitution paid, however it is not the end for the graduates. The final phase, which can last one to two years is post-graduation, which is called Living Your Plan and consists of judicial review and meeting with probation every three months, submit monthly report form, three month reviews with counselors, 12 step program and random drug screening.

The 54A program is available to non-violent offenders who have been convicted of repeat misdemeanor drinking and driving offenses. The participants must live in the greater Lansing area. The program does not discriminate based on race, gender, sex or national origin, as long as they meet the original eligibility requirements. Non-eligibility criteria will include a history of violent offenses, drug delivery and sale and a significant mental health diagnosis.

The program, which began in 2005, was the City of Lansing's response to the serious community problem of drunk driving. In 2007, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina established the Ingham County Sobriety Court Foundation. It was developed to support local sobriety courts to meet the needs of its participants.

The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible as allowed by law. For more information, contact Steven B. Robbins at 517-323-7500.

Published: Thu, Jun 27, 2013