Roane County Recovery Court for drug-related offenders has now been in operation for six weeks. The drug court team, led by General Sessions Court Judge Dennis Humphrey, will discuss their work with the court in the second part of a two-part program at Lunch with the League at noon Tuesday, March 15.
The first part of the program was presented on March 1. The Tuesday meeting starts at 12 p.m. March 15 in the Social Hall of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church at 809 Oak Ridge Turnpike.
Humphrey will be accompanied by District Attorney General Russell Johnson, Public Defender Kim Nelson, community relations for the district attorney Charlene Hipsher, Probation/Corrections Officer Chanel Finnell, Recovery Court Coordinator Ashley Freeberg, WestCare treatment staff Janeece Foust, and law enforcement liaison Lieutenant Rick Baker.
Lunch with the League is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge.
In his presentation on March 1, Johnson said that the court was established after about two years of intensive planning and preparation but had been of deep interest for much longer.
The initiative was centered in the DA’s office with executive secretary Charlene Hipsher assigned to a community relations role and serving as de facto drug court coordinator and planning coordinator. Efforts were directed to identifying gaps or duplications in services, instigating precursor programs, building relationships and partnerships, and exploring funding opportunities, a press release said. Hipsher said she worked with federal and state agencies such as the National Drug Court Institute in Washington and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the effort to secure funding. Meanwhile, a Roane Recovery Court Steering Committee including Tennessee Senator Ken Yager, Representative Kent Calfee, local churches, civic organizations, Humphrey, and Nelson was formed.
A federal grant application submitted by Roane County Executive Ron Woody was approved in October 2015, and Recovery Court was up and running. The grant provided $350,000 for the next three federal fiscal cycles. A TDMHSA state grant provides another $50,000 for the drug court funding.
Upon receiving funding, former probation officer Ashley Freeberg was hired as Recovery Court coordinator, and several team members have taken the mandatory weeklong training by the National Drug Court Institute in Johnson City.
The purpose of the Recovery Court is to provide a one-year diversion program that offers non-violent drug offenders an opportunity to recover from addiction and return to a productive life. Recovery Court sessions are held each Monday. Possible participants must be referred, often through the public defender’s or district attorney’s offices. The participants must be residents of Roane County, and they must apply for the program and go through a rigorous investigation, Johnson said at the first presentation to the League.
Today’s event is free and open to the public. Beginning at 11:30 a.m., lunches will be available on a first come, first served basis for $8. Coffee and tea will be provided.
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan political organization for men and women, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of public policy issues and influence public policy through education and public policy.