Attorney General Todd Rokita stops by county’s Drug Court Program, offers words of encouragement

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Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita spoke to participants and family members who were in attendance at Drug Court program on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

Tom Russo| Daily Reporter

HANCOCK COUNTY — Standing at a podium, reading from a prepared statement, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita stood in the center of Hancock County Circuit Court. He told over a dozen participants in the county’s Drug Court program that he had faith in their efforts to break addictive behavior that had landed them in trouble with the law.

“Your participation in this courtroom shows me you’ve set goals, and you want to move beyond past setbacks,” Rokita said.

Once a month, officials from the county’s addiction recovery program gather for meetings overseen by Judge Scott Sirk and program director Beth Ingle. They work with team members including prosecutor Brent Eaton, Greenfield Police Department Chief Brian Hartman and Hancock County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Robert Harris as well as several other members of the community to try and steer participants as they make way toward life-lasting sobriety.

Part of the program includes a speaker — someone who shares issues they may have encountered in their life, yet makes a decision to deal with their troubles in a productive rather than destructive manner.

Rokita, this month’s speaker, reminded the participants they are human and therefore are going to make mistakes in life, but they now have a real opportunity to learn from those missteps and get their lives back on target, even starting over again thanks to help they receive in the drug court program.

“Addiction leads good people to make poor choices,” Rokita said. “Breaking bad habits is hard work.”

Having the Indiana Attorney General come to a regular session of the program, share words of encouragement with the participants, stick around to listen to their issues and even answer a few questions was a telling gesture Ingle said.

“It shows them that someone who is higher up politically really does care about what is going on in Hancock County as well as the people who are in the program,” Ingle said.

Eaton, who developed a relationship with Rokita when they were both young lawyers, set up Rokita’s visit. Eaton agreed with Ingle on the importance of having the Attorney General stop in for a visit to learn a little more about one of the county’s road to recovery programs created years ago by former Judge Richard Culver.

“Our office has a really positive relationship with the Attorney General and his administration,” Eaton said. “We’ve had a few cases where issues here have overlapped and they’ve stepped in to move the ball, and that’s a benefit for the county.”

As for the drug court program, Eaton said it works because it provides a pathway to rehabilitation for offenders who are serious about treatment.

“And we insist on accountability for those who are not,” Eaton said. “If you are not serious about the program, we make sure those offenders go to prison and not through our treatment court.”

Rokita took the time to tell the program members about his personal struggles when life threw him a few curve balls, noting everyone has issues and hard times to deal with but, staying the course and making good decisions can lead to a positive outcome despite past mistakes.

“God offers us grace, and we ought to take him up on that,” Rokita said.

Sirk, who introduced and talked with each drug court participant about their progress after Rokita spoke, agreed with Rokita’s message and said he appreciated the Attorney General’s time, noting his court was humbled and honored to have him make a stop during a program session. Sirk felt Rokita got a good feel for what county officials are trying to accomplish through the program.

“His words were perfect and well received by the participants,” Sirk said. “Having the Attorney General come and speak is reaffirming for the participants and the team as well.”

One of those participants, Jasmine Spaulding of Indianapolis, said she too appreciated the AG’s time. She shook his hand and gave him a hug after describing the progress she’s making in the program. Spaulding told the court she’ll move out on her own soon after getting a job and putting her life back together.

Rokita asked her what others could do to help the participants in the program continue moving forward with their journey to recovery. She answered that having people like Rokita continue their efforts to help break the stigma of addiction helps.

Spaulding said when people in a position such as the Attorney General take the time to see what drug and alcohol addiction can do to others and how programs like Drug Court can help, others will notice too.

Rokita told her and the other participants he is aware that addiction can happen in all walks of life and said it doesn’t matter if a person is rich or poor. He then encouraged the participants to find a higher purpose for their life, leaving the group with a Bible verse — Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” Rokita said, reading the verse. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Rokita then asked all in attendance to embrace that truth.

After Rokita spoke, Ingle said one of the participants told her having a state political figure take the time to speak to their group made her feel like she was important.

“I think the message was really well received,” Ingle said.