Blending Culture and Community to Combat Addiction: the Penobscot Healing to Wellness Court

The Penobscot Healing to Wellness Court has many of the basic functions of state drug courts, which seek to foster recovery rather than punitive actions. Like most courts, the Healing to Wellness Court provides intensive case management and counseling, frequent drug testing, and a balance of sanctions and incentives. The tribe’s court is different; incorporating culture and tradition as a part of recovery. Each court session starts with a prayer and a smudging- burning sage and traditional medicines. Participants are expected to attend regular drumming circles, language classes, and cultural events and activities. And, perhaps most importantly, a central tenant of the program is to focus as much on community healing as on individual healing.

New assignment work for independent nonprofit journalism group Pine Tree Watch, published in the Bangor Daily News, story written by Chelsea Conaboy

All images © Greta Rybus