Drug Court Graduates Create Alumni Group to Give Back

For many in southwest Missouri, graduating from the Greene County Drug Court isn’t the end of recovery; it’s just the beginning.

Now graduates can join an alumni group called M.O.R.E., Men Out Recovering Everyday.

Led by Rhonda Richards, Drug Court Coordinator for Heartland Center for Behavioral Change, the alumni group’s mission is “to provide a venue for men in recovery to get involved in our community.”

“We strive to bring a message of strength, hope and unity while providing a platform from which these men can give back by helping the forgotten members of society,” says the group’s mission statement. “We bring to light the value of compassion and empathy within ourselves by showing respect and leading by example.

In the last year, M.O.R.E. has not only met socially with two BBQs, a float trip and a Springfield Cardinals baseball outing but also organized several drives for the homeless, giving out meals, personal care packages, warm coats and blankets and even toys for homeless children at Christmas.

The men also regularly volunteer at the veterans home in Mt. Vernon and are now working with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a family in need. Next month, they’ll supply back packs full of school supplies to homeless children at one of the elementary schools in Springfield.

“It’s really important for the men to give back to the community and make amends,” says Richards. “It’s also important for them to have a connection to where they’ve been, and to keep recovery as a focus in their lives.”

In fact, Richards credits the men with creating and leading the group, which started out informally three years ago with a simple BBQ during group treatment and has evolved into a formal organization with a mission statement and board of directors.

“A program like this has to be the clients’ choice, you can’t mandate it,” she says. “And they’re the ones doing the work; I’m just simply giving them the tools, skills and direction.”

Richards’ success with M.O.R.E. and its members is a model for other Drug Court programs. In March, Richards will lead a training session on building drug court alumni groups at the 2014 Missouri Drug Court Conference.

Richards is also working with the Greene County Drug Court to create a similar group for female graduates. So far, the women have organized a baby food drive for homeless women and children.

Why are Drug Courts important?

  • They are a proven cost-effective method for diverting non-violent offenders from incarceration in prisons.
  • Drug courts lower the recidivism rate of offenders when compared to either incarceration or probation.
  • They allow offenders to remain in their communities, to support their families and to pay taxes.
  • Drug courts reduce the number of babies born addicted.
  • They reduce crime and the need for foster care, and they help ensure that child support payments are made.