The Justice Programs Office is celebrating National Drug Court Month by sharing the personal perspectives of those who work in the treatment court field. Angela Plunkett, Statewide Drug Court Coordinator for the State of Missouri, finishes our guest series with her personal journey from a tough-as-nails parole officer to becoming a drug court advocate and statewide coordinator.
Just by looking at my 5’1 stature, you wouldn’t guess I used to be a hard-nosed, pistol-packin’ parole officer (PO), nicknamed The Iron Maiden (the only nickname I care to repeat).
I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I was a big-headed, judgmental PO who used to say to clients, “If I can say NO to drugs, you can too,” and “You’d better not EVER lie to me…”
The associate judge approached myself and three other PO’s in the law library one day after court. He asked if we had ever heard of “drug court.” My response, which surprised even me, was, “I don’t know what it is, but I’m all in!” After 12 years at Probation & Parole I was tired of the generational, revolving door and needed something new.
I contacted a lady by the name of Ann Wilson who was the statewide drug court coordinator at a place called “OSCA” in Jefferson City, Missouri. She told me about an application process for training on how to start a drug court through the National Drug Court Institute.
Long story short, the judge and I attended our first Drug Court Planning Initiative in 2003 in San Diego where I met Carolyn Hardin and West Huddleston, both from the from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. For the first in my life I was presented with the research that addiction is a chronic brain disease. When West revealed at the end of his presentation that he was in recovery (I know it sounds corny), I had an epiphany… I had a sudden realization that I had found my “something new.”
We went on to two more training sessions with our new team. I served the drug court as the PO and the coordinator and worked on funding requests at nights and on weekends. A year later we requested a full-time, state-paid drug court administrator’s position which was funded the following year. I was hired to fill the position and moved forward with implementing four adult drug courts and a juvenile drug court in the rural, five county circuit in southeast Missouri.
Eighteen months later, my husband was promoted, and we were forced to relocate to Jefferson City, which meant I had to resign from the job I dearly loved. During the few years I was out of the drug court picture, I worked in the Missouri Senate and shared the good news about the program with anyone who would listen. In 2010, I applied and was selected as the statewide drug court coordinator. I became the ‘Ann Wilson at a place called OSCA’ redeeming myself and returning to the work I loved.
I am so privileged to work with the statewide drug court coordinators who do amazing work in each state. I have met so many good friends at all the national agencies: NDCI, NADCP, NCDC, CCI, AU, NCSC, NPC, CFF, OJJDP, BJA, SAMHSA, CCJ/COSCA, TLPI and those in Missouri: MATCP, DMH, DOR, MoDOT, MSHP, MADD, DSS, DOC, P&P, and I’m especially grateful for my two incredible staff at a place called OSCA.
Guest post written by Angela Plunkett, Statewide Drug Court Coordinator, State of Missouri.