‘We’ve had a lot of really great success stories’

By on September 27, 2022

Dare County Recovery Court steadily grows

Recovery Court Coordinator Emily Urch.

Since Dare County Recovery Court first convened at the Dare County Justice Center in May 2019, it has steadily grown to include more participants, more success stories, and more funding.

At its core, the three-year-old program allows some individuals with substance abuse problems who are charged with or convicted of non-violent crimes to avoid incarceration if they follow a drug treatment, testing and monitoring program.

“We’ve grown a lot,” Recovery Court Coordinator Emily Urch told the Voice during a recent interview. “We’ve had some stagnant periods because the courts were closed during the pandemic, and we get most of our [participants] through Superior Court. But once we opened back up, we had a lot of people…From 2020 to 2021, we went from about nineteen people to forty-two.”

Urch said that in January 2021, there were 18 participants and by the end of December, there were 36. That same year, the court had 11 successful graduates and so far in 2022, there have been 12 successful graduates.

Dare County Recovery Court, one of about 50 in the state, was first funded in 2019 by the county commissioners in an effort to treat the growing opioid crisis locally. Most recently, the county earmarked $100,000 of the 2022-23 monies it received from the national opioid litigation settlement to fund an additional probation officer for the recovery court program. Currently, there is one probation officer handling the caseload.

Prospective participants are referred to the court by their attorneys or probation officers and must be approved by the Recovery Court Board of Directors, made up of mental health providers, social workers, as well as law enforcement and court representatives.

Candidates for the program are those who have documented substance abuse problems who have found themselves in the criminal justice system because of their dependence on certain drugs, but who are not drug dealers or violent offenders.

Recovery court, Urch explains, provides an alternative for participants who are facing harsher sentences for non-violent felonies by providing treatment plans that include either intensive inpatient or outpatient treatment, mental health support as well as regular drug screening, court appearances and check-ins with a probation officer.

Ultimately, graduating from the program entails achieving a substantial period of sobriety, with a minimum of at least a year, successful discharge from their treatment provider, stable substance-free housing, employment and no probation violations.

Recovery court meets roughly once a month with Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett presiding. During that court session, participants report to Judge Tillett on their progress.

“After leaving a court session, the whole [Recovery Court team] feels really good about what’s happening,” Urch asserts. “You get to hear from people themselves about what they are doing, how they are doing and how they are growing. And they are enjoying it and proud of their accomplishments.

While some recovery courts only take misdemeanor cases, Urch said that Dare’s Recovery Court primarily has participants that have been charged or convicted of felonies.

“The harder drugs are always going to be a felony and those are the people who really need help… and going through the program is a diversion away from prison or jail, so these are people who would have normally had active sentences,” she said.

Urch said that the recovery court works closely with the sheriff’s office as well as the county health department that assists with efforts to get participants into treatment centers and identifying funding, grants and donations to help mitigate the cost of treatment.

With time and success, monitoring and supervision lessen until participants satisfy their probation and recovery court requirements. As they move through the program, participants receive incentives and rewards, such as gift cards donated by local businesses or having their curfew lifted.

Unfortunately, not all participants are successful. In 2021, there were four unsuccessful candidates and so far in 2022, there have been eight. In all of those cases, the participant has committed a new crime and had their probation revoked.

But overall, Urch said, the program has been “very, very rewarding and we’ve had a lot of really great success stories – people who are now part of the recovery community and work with me in helping others.”





  • tp

    I sure hope that none of these people in drug court are being required to attend 12-step meetings or 12-step treatment. 12-step programs are religious and that would be a serious violation of the religion clauses of the Constitution. I also hope no one is required to attend the one over in Wanchese that the tax payers were forced to pay 200,000K for. They even admit they are religious.

    Tuesday, Sep 27 @ 9:15 pm
  • Look@See

    Yeah God forbid religion be discussed and helping people recover from life destroying addictions… you’re ridiculous. Half the reason they’re addicts is because they need to find God as do you. Accept the fact that religion has been around forever and always will be. Open your eyes and go to church you’ll be happier and won’t worry about complaining about asinine things.

    Saturday, Oct 1 @ 12:11 pm
  • tp


    Mark, You gonna give me the same leeway when I respond to Look@See’s post?

    After all, I don’t think Thomas Jefferson was being asinine when he wrote:

    “Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”

    And Mr. Jefferson was as responsible as anyone for giving us lucky Americans the precious gift of religious liberty, something that the poor souls of the Islamic Republic of Iran do not have.

    Sunday, Oct 2 @ 5:20 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    TP, your post is fine, but next time you begin by asking me whether I will post it, it will be deleted.

    Sunday, Oct 2 @ 9:55 am
  • S

    Having been though a program I can say that recovery is heavily dependent on religion, Be it a Christian God or ” your own God” They do not Force religion on you by any means. Having something to believe in is an important part of recovery. Whatever you believe in, even if it is a doorknob. Your ignorance into how recovery works is common but ask most people who have been though a program and you will find that finding a higher being was very important in their recovery. In other words, Don’t preach or complain about something you obviously know nothing about.

    Monday, Oct 3 @ 8:11 am
  • Travis


    What you say is not entirely true. Many programs have a strong faith based approach. But there are quite a few, SMART Recovery and S.O.S. (Secular Organizations for Sobriety) are just a couple. Maybe they “believe” in science or medicine in place of a Celestial Being but it certainly does not meet the definition of “religion” even loosely applied.

    There are so many different belief systems now it does seem rather limiting to have the majority of them tailored with a Christian bias. I would imagine it is a bit discouraging for others with other faiths to go through a process that is not inclusive of their personal beliefs.

    Congratulations on your personal recovery. May the Force be with you.

    Monday, Oct 3 @ 6:42 pm
  • Johnny B Good

    The 12 step program helps a lot of people, if you’re not interested in it, you don’t have to attend or listen to it!

    Saturday, Oct 8 @ 3:33 pm