For the first time, a Native American graduate of a tribal wellness court spoke at the Wisconsin Association of Treatment Court
Professionals annual conference.
Karie Decorah, Ho-Chunk, presented on a panel (click link for video) with other treatment court graduates on Thursday, April 29, as part of this year’s WATCP three-day gathering at the Kalahari Resort and Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells.
A main focus of WATCP’s mission, according to its website, is to reduce substance abuse, crime and recidivism by promoting and advocating
the establishment and funding of treatment courts.
Decorah graduated from the Ho-Chunk Nation Family Wellness Court in August 2017, and on the same day, had legal custody of children
returned to her after two years. It was the beginning of a new chapter in her life after struggling with substance abuse issues for 15 years.
“The Family Wellness Court has given me the support and resources to rebuild a healthier life in recovery,” said Decorah, who works as a
pre-K-12 grant specialist at Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Education in Black River Falls and attends Western Technical College where she is studying for an associate degree in the accounting program.
“The Family Wellness Court also held me accountable for my choices that weren’t always in my best interest. Because of this, I was able to look within myself and take responsibility for my choices.”
A 2014 report by the California-based Tribal Law and Policy Institute stated that since tribal wellness courts were started in 1997, they have
“spawned a new generation of drug courts and, more importantly, a new beacon of hope for the continually devastating effects of alcohol and
drug abuse in Indian country.” The report also cited that the arrest rate among Native Americans for alcohol-related offenses is more than double that found among other races, and that tribes that year reported more cases involving prescription drug, methamphetamine and
Decorah organized a local chapter of PROSPERITY in Recovery in Black River Falls in 2019 and serves as one of the group’s leaders. The
purpose of the organization is to provide support and encouragement for people who are in "purpose driven recovery" and offer structure through fellowship-based activities.
John Dick, president of PROSPERITY in Recovery in Black River Falls, said the group has helped members gain confidence in taking
leadership roles within the community, team building, fundraising, event planning, and budgeting.
“We’ve also gained experience collaborating with various organizations within the community and surrounding areas," Dick said.
Ryan Dick, vice president of the group, said being involved in the organization “makes me feel like I’m giving something back to the recovery
community.” He added, “I feel that it gives me a voice. Gives me a sense of purpose.”
Decorah shared her story during the WATCP panel discussion, talking about what led her to addiction, how the Family Wellness Court program has helped her, and how her relationships have changed for the better.
She said she hopes her story can give hope to others who may be working their way through a treatment court.
WATCP is a professional organization representing the interests of treatment courts in Wisconsin. WATCP’s website states that its
multidisciplinary membership includes judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, court administrators, treatment providers, probation and
community corrections officers, social service caseworkers, and other stakeholders in the field of treatment courts.