10th Judicial District Recovery Court Holds First In-Person Graduation Since Start of Pandemic

October 8, 2020

Like other recovery courts throughout the state and country, Tennessee’s 10th Judicial Recovery Court had to adapt some of its services and procedures to life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the efforts that 10th Judicial District Judge Andrew Freiberg and court staff made to keep recovery court participants on a healthy path to success were featured in a July 2020 story. Those efforts included holding consultations via Skype and even having a socially distanced recovery court graduation in May in the justice center parking lot. Peer support group sessions were also held remotely and for shorter periods of time.

It was a cause for celebration then when the Recovery Court resumed its in-person sessions with a graduation ceremony on September 8 in Judge Freiberg’s Bradley County courtroom.

“It was the first in-person recovery court session of any kind since March 6,” Judge Freiberg said. “People were very excited and eager to get back to court, and I was eager to see them. So I thought what better way to bring us back to court than through a graduation?”

The five-graduate ceremony was covered by several local news outlets, including The Advocate & Democrat, the Cleveland Daily Banner, and the Daily Post Athenian.

“Today is a blessed day, it is graduation day, but I want to take a moment to recognize not only our graduates but everyone here for recovery court,” Judge Freiberg said during the ceremony, according to The Advocate & Democrat. “You all have gone through and overcome adversities during this pandemic ... I really think you all deserve a lot of praise for that.”

Judge Freiberg later spoke more about what the recovery court participants and graduates have accomplished over the past few challenging months.

“I am exceptionally proud of the participants,” he said. “They have not only been managing their addiction needs and mental health needs, but they have also been able to overcome and deal with this adversity better than I could have ever expected or demanded or anticipated. They have done a tremendous job, and they all deserve to feel very proud of themselves because this has been difficult for everyone. Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to provide the same personal care that we pride ourselves on, and rather than let that slow them down, they continued to grow and mature and achieve, and their success as a group is astounding.”

The in-person session was a big day not only for the graduates, but also for several new recovery court participants who joined the program since the start of the pandemic. It was the first opportunity for Judge Freiberg to meet them in person.

The fact that the program continued to add participants and move people up in the program even during the pandemic is a sign of how dedicated court staff are to helping the community, Judge Freiberg said.

“We didn’t let the pandemic or any adversity stop us,” he said. “We continued to phase people up. We would be clapping as a group on the video screens for them in celebration of their achievements.”

Looking to the future, Judge Freiberg said that he and the recovery court team have decided to keep doing in-person meetings the first Tuesday of each month for the rest of the year. Everyone will meet via teleconference on the remaining Tuesdays of the month.

“We’re kind of merging and doing a hybrid model,” he said. “The hope is that by seeing each other at least once a month there is a rapport and a relationship built between us, while also being mindful of safety.”

Photo of the graduation courtesy of Judge Andrew Freiberg