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Recovery court gains state recognition

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

Grant County’s Family Recovery Court program was recognized for its numerous successes in the community by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Loretta Rush in her State of the Judiciary address on Wednesday.

Grant Superior Court II Judge Dana Kenworthy and others worked to form the program in 2015. Family Recovery Court works to rehabilitate residents struggling with addiction who have lost or may lose custody of their children as a result.

The program uses rehabilitation and group support to work with addicts, helping them raise their self-worth and often pull them out of an emotionally numb state, according to Kenworthy.

“In Grant County, Judge Dana Kenworthy saw a growing number of parents affected by addiction,” Rush said. “To address this problem, she established the specialized Family Recovery Court to include not just the addicted, but also their children – the hidden victims of this drug crisis.”

The program has graduated five parents who are with their families, but even with their success they must fight every day against their former habits. Donald Cole, 41, was an alcoholic for nearly 30 years before graduating from Family Recovery Court in November last year.

He said his success in the life-changing program has encouraged him to reach out to others struggling with addiction.

“I have to chase recovery like I did the dope man – I have to do it each day,” he said at graduation.

Of the five graduates, Kenworthy said none of them have returned to their addictions. She attributed the success of the program to how heavily they teach building self-confidence to the parents, which they in turn teach to their children.

“The police and the courts can’t fix addiction on their own,” Kenworthy said. “It takes the involvement of everyone.”

Kenworthy said there are around 325 programs like Family Recovery Court in the United States. Other Indiana counties have taken notice of the court’s success in turning around addiction and rebuilding families. Some, like Delaware Circuit Court II Judge Kim Dowling, have recently visited Kenworthy to see the program in action.

Dowling said his area has “exploded” with Department of Child Services cases. She recalled having between 100 and 200 cases at the end of 2016. Now they are dealing with more than 520 child cases.

The Delaware County judge said 99 percent of the cases she sees are drug related.

“From charges of possession of narcotics, to charges for getting or making narcotics to continue the addiction,” Dowling said. “I see people who are being charged for things they did while under the influence, like stealing, or maybe they were stealing to get the money to purchase drugs. The fact is, we’re sending these people to prison. It’s the number one battle we’re facing and what we’re doing right now isn’t working, so it’s time to try something different.”

Dowling said Delaware County is in the initial stages of setting up the program, and they hope to begin accepting cases by 2019.

Other counties, like Bartholomew, Dearborn, Wells and Adams counties have inquired or are in the process of creating their own recovery courts. Kenworthy said the judges she’s shared the program with have come to her “because they’ve seen a lot of tragedy and families being torn apart in the courtroom.”

“They’ve seen enough and they’re ready to see change,” she said.