A group of court-involved women, who are in recovery, participated in an all women’s session of Recovery Court, called the Mother’s Day Recovery Court at the Malden District Court on Summer Street.
This one-of-a-kind session of the specialty court — which included participants of Drug Courts in Cambridge, Lynn, Chelsea, East Boston and Malden, with some accompanied by their mothers — was presided over by a female judge, Lynn District Associate Justice Ina Howard-Hogan. Every person in the room was female, including the probation officers, clerks, security and attorneys.
The session featured a presentation by Katie O’Leary, Director of Recovery Support Services at North Suffolk Mental Health, and her mother, Donna, who talked about being witness to her daughter’s addiction and journey to recovery. Guest speakers also included Joanne Peterson, founder of Learn to Cope, a non-profit support network that offers education, resources, peer support, and hope for parents and family members coping with a loved one addicted to opiates or other drugs.
Shannon White, Community Outreach Coordinator for Charlestown Addiction Recovery and Treatment (CHART) Drug Court Program, also addressed the session.
The Mother’s Day Recovery Court is the brainchild of Malden District Court First Justice Benjamin Barnes and Probation Officer Judith Lawler, who both conceived of the idea when they worked at Chelsea District Court where Barnes presided over Drug Court and Lawler helped manage the Drug Court. Barnes and Lawler found that women probationers and participants of the Drug Courts were not benefitting in the same way their male counterparts due to trauma they have suffered. “We found out that they (women Drug Court participants) were not performing as well as the males in Drug Court. We thought there must be another way to address their specific needs and after some research found that it had a lot to do with the trauma the women had been experiencing,” Barnes said. “We thought a solo session—involving only women where they can speak openly and freely—would help.” Lawler, who is now a Probation Officer at Newton District Court, worked with Barnes and Malden District Probation Officer Gianna Franco to plan the session.
“It is an opportunity for women to come together to share their journeys and struggles, to be listened to, and to offer support, encouragement, and hope for one another because hope is never disappointing,” Lawler said.