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Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts: Intergovernmental Collaboration

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2021
41 pages

This paper examines ways in which Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts and state courts have cooperated to improve each system’s effectiveness.


The Healing to Wellness Court features multidisciplinary collaboration to improve outcomes for court-involved substance abusers. This report intends to assist Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts that are interested in building intergovernmental collaborations, including tribal-state collaboration. A brief history of Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts discusses some common traits in existing collaborations. These common traits are then used in discussing collaborations that are currently operating in Tribal Wellness Courts. Native nations that were developing their own Wellness Courts preferred to avoid the term “drug court” and searched for another term that would connect culturally to the tribal community and incorporate cases of alcohol abuse. Several names for these courts have been used. The current report uses “Healing to Wellness Court” and “Wellness Court” interchangeably. In August 2003, tribal-specific drug court curricula were drafted and adapted from state and national efforts and were used for the first formal tribal drug court training sessions. The court partners with all the service providers to create a treatment program that matches participant needs. Participants must complete a program of extensive supervision and treatment. Wellness Courts, with their experience in developing collaborations, have the skills required to develop partnerships with state and local entities; however, collaborations between tribes and states are historically limited. There are legitimate legal, political, and social reasons for refraining from inter-jurisdictional collaborations. This report discusses ways to frame discussions about collaborations to set the stage for discussions about the methods of collaboration. Through regular meetings and learning about each other’s practices, collaborative partners have built trust and developed professional relationships that facilitate the effectiveness of the services of represented courts. A listing of collaboration resources