WRHCF helping make second chances possible

WORTHINGTON -- Thanks to a grant from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF), the Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court will be able to continue providing important services in southwest Minnesota.

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Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation Executive Director Jeff Rotert (from left) stands with Rock-Nobles Drug Court Coordinator Sherri Smith, MSW intern Heather Kirchner and peer mentor Jadie Denny during a check presentation Thursday. (Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Thanks to a grant from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF), the Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court will be able to continue providing important services in southwest Minnesota.


A $3,850 check was presented Thursday by WRHCF Executive Director Jeff Rotert to the drug treatment program, which offers services regionally in Nobles and Rock counties.


“This was awarded so the treatment court could expand their wellness activities for the individuals going through the program at the time,” said Rotert, adding that participants will be able to utilize opportunities at the Worthington Area YMCA as well as community yoga and music therapy offerings.



“We did some brainstorming,” explained Sherri Smith, Rock-Nobles Drug Court Coordinator. “Actually, Chief Deputy Dybevick (Chris, of the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office) and our probation agent through Rock-Nobles Community Corrections at the time had a meeting with the YMCA management staff, and they had ideas we could kick around to bring our participants into activities at the Y. The ball kind of started rolling there, and we expanded into what else we could do and what else participants may be interested in doing.”


Smith described the drug court program as a long-term chemical dependency treatment program that also may include, if appropriate, referrals to mental health services. Participants are required to undergo strict drug testing - they are tested randomly a minimum of twice per week - and also have to perform 40 hours per week of structured activity such as work, school or community service. All are subject to curfews that become later as the participant advances through the program’s four phases.


Smith said assistance from both the Worthington Police Department and Nobles County Sheriff’s Office also helps the program operate smoothly.


“Jake Refsland, a city of Worthington police officer, will got to our participants’ homes and make sure they’re home, talk to them a little bit and give them a breathalyzer test,” Smith said. “In the county, deputies split that duty.”



Participants in the program are also required to appear in court every other week on a Wednesday morning.


“Their team includes a judge, someone from the county attorney’s office, a defense attorney, law enforcement, a probation officer, treatment providers, mental health providers, social services, jail administration and myself,” Smith detailed. “We do what we call staffing - like a case management consultation or team meeting. We talk about what their (participants’) strengths and weaknesses are and what may need to be done to alter their behavior, and what services they may need to be referred to or receive.”


Following their respective meetings, each participant has a brief one-on-one conversation with a judge. It’s all part of working to fulfill the five primary goals of Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court: enhance public safety; reduce substance abuse; reduce recidivism; reduce system costs; and create productive and law-abiding citizens.


“It’s an 18- to 24-month program and it’s very intensive,” Smith said. “In addition to coming to court ... they have to meet with their probation agent often and they have to turn in schedules, so we pretty much know where they are 24/7. They also have to attend a minimum of two support group meetings each week, such as Celebrate Recovery and Narcotics Anonymous … and a sponsor for these is necessary.”



The program usually has in the neighborhood of 20 participants at one time. While success rates are measured by a number of different factors, Smith said the ultimate goal is to reduce criminal recidivism.


One success story of the program: Jadie Denny of Pipestone, who is a Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court graduate. Denny, who also attended Thursday’s check presentation, now serves as a peer mentor and alumni group treasurer for the program.


“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of drug court,” Denny said. “They gave me my life back by showing me what my life can be. It’s such a long program that after a couple of months being it, you realize your life isn’t bad - it’s getting better. They gave me that push I needed.”


Denny was able to obtain her GED and then graduate with an administrative assistant degree from Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus. She drove regularly from Pipestone to Worthington to complete the program.


“Drug court gave me the motivation to have goals and to reach them,” she said.


Also present for Thursday’s check presentation was Heather Kirchner, a master’s of social work intern with the Southwestern Mental Health Center in Worthington.


“Part of my internship role is to be on the drug court team, shadowing the mental health professional that sits on the team,” said Kirchner, who has resided in Dundee for 12 years.


It was Kirchner who prepared the request for the WRHCF grant.


“I also have some contact with individuals to help with situations that may need my expertise ... and provide additional support if needed,” she said. “I had been involved in the court system in a previous role with child protection and when I came into drug court, it was a different feeling - it’s so warm and supportive. It's an amazing thing to be a part of and watch.”


Funding for the drug court program are strictly through the state’s court administration office, Smith said. In addition to serving as coordinator for Nobles and Rock counties, she also coordinates the program for Faribault-Martin-Jackson and Cottonwood counties and also involved with its Pipestone-Murray counties’ effort.


For more information about the Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court program, contact Smith at (507) 220-5537.   


Related Topics: HEALTH
Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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