By Seth Daniel
After 17 years, one of the founding, cornerstone members of the model Chelsea Drug Court program is moving on to new opportunities in the Newton court system.
“It’s tough work, but we keep at it, roll up our sleeves and keep at it,” she said this week, following her last Drug Court session on Tuesday in Chelsea District Court. “That’s because people can get better and it’s a remarkable, wonderful thing to see that happen.”
Judy Lawlor transferred to Chelsea District Court from the juvenile court as a Probation Officer, and was immediately approached by Judge Tim Gailey about working in the brand new, special Drug Court.
“I said ‘yes,’ and stayed at it the whole time,” she said. “He was an icon and thinking outside the box on this new initiative presented to the Trial Court…I could see this was something necessary for people who have substance abuse disorder and are involved in the Criminal Justice System. It’s doable for people to achieve and maintain abstinence and grow in their recovery with the combination of being held accountable and responsible in the Drug Court. It was so remarkable.”
In forming the Drug Court, Lawlor – representing Probation – began sitting with Kim Hanton of North Suffolk Mental Health and Pat O’Hagen of East Boston. They were the cornerstones of the program, and the seats at that table grew to include the Salvation Army in Saugus, Navigators, the House of Corrections Social Services, Chelsea Police and Revere Police – among others.
She said the team concept is what she will miss and what really worked to make the Chelsea Drug Court a model for the entire state to emulate.
“They all sat in on drug court together,” she said. “That’s why I became a believer because you’re part of a team. We’re all working to the same goal for people, but all coming at it from a different angle.”
She said Hanton and O’Hagen were particularly meaningful for her in working for 17 years in the specialized court.
She said she has transferred to Newton for a new opportunity in her career.
“I’m really looking for change, and change can be good,” she said. “Besides, it’s never good-bye, but rather, ‘I’ll see you later.’”
More than anything, she said she would miss seeing people change, going from court-involved to sober and productive members of society.
“I will miss that change you see from when a person comes in and 18 months later stands at our ceremony sober, drug-free and re-engaged with their families and gainfully employed,” she said.