News Item
Cass/Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Wellness Court Honored by National Association of Drug Court Professionals

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Cass/Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Wellness Court has received the 2011 NADCP Cultural Proficiency Courage Award, presented for the first time this year, by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP).  The award was presented to Ninth Judicial District Judge John P. Smith and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Court Associate Judge Korey Wahwassuck on behalf of the Joint Tribal-State Court during NADCP’s 17th Annual Drug Court Training Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2011. 

The Cultural Proficiency Courage Award is given to the top three Drug Court programs that best demonstrate and promote cultural proficiency in their delivery of Drug Court services, which should be reflective of community demographics and the local arrestee population.  Award recipients must have proven cultural competency when dealing with special challenges faced by minorities in Drug Court.  NADCP-member applications for the award are rated based upon objective criteria by a group of peer reviewers selected by NADCP. 

“Judge Wahwassuck and I are honored to receive this award on behalf of the Cass/Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Wellness Court,” said Judge Smith.  “We are particularly proud of the participants in the program who have shown that the innovative methods of problem-solving in the courts can produce a positive change for society.  The Wellness Court model not only saves money for the taxpaying public, but also has saved lives.  We also believe that the cooperative efforts between Cass County District Court and Leech Lake Tribal Court will continue to yield positive benefits to the public far into the future.” 

The Cass/Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Wellness Court is a multi-jurisdictional court which targets chronic alcohol offenders.  The court combines treatment, sobriety testing, and court monitoring to break the cycle of addiction for offenders.  The team approach, featuring participation by law enforcement, probation, treatment professionals, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, gives defendants guidance and direction to help them overcome their disease and become law-abiding citizens.

The Cass/Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Wellness Court, which is thought to be the only multi-jurisdictional court in the United States, has served as a national model for intergovernmental cooperation.  The Court, which has been in operation since 2006, serves the populations of Cass County, Minnesota, and the Leech Lake Reservation.  The Court has also been the recipient of the Honoring Nations Award by Harvard University.