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Local woman awarded for helping others recover from drug addiction

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Liberty Potts, center, with husband Doug and daughter Leslie. | Courtesy photo

BLACKFOOT – In October 2010, Libertie Potts was in jail facing six years in state prison for 10 felonies in three counties — Bonneville, Bingham and Bannock.

Judges in all three counties had sentenced her to prison for various drug- or theft-related crimes.

“I had alienated my family. I didn’t have friends. I only had people I sold drugs to. I had no hope at that moment,” Potts said. “I gave my commissary (products purchased through the jail) away. I was waiting to go to prison.”

But that prison sentence never happened. While she was waiting to be transported to the Women’s Prison in Pocatello, Blackfoot attorney Kevin Peterson set out to persuade the judges in all three counties to change their minds.

“I am never going to feel that humiliated again.”

“When they called over the (jail) intercom and told me ‘Libertie Potts, roll your wrap.’ I knew I was getting ready to go to prison,” Potts said.

She was surprised to learn Peterson was able to convince the courts to change her sentence to the Wood Pilot Program, as it was known at the time.

“At that moment it was like, ‘I’m done.’ I am never going to feel that humiliated again. From now on, it’s going to just be recovery and never have to go through that again,” she said.

She began her path to recovery and after successfully completing the program Potts began to mentor other recovering addicts — becoming a peer support specialist for the Wood Court (a problem-solving court) in Bonneville County. Potts’ job is to demonstrate there is hope for a better life without drugs. The program now has 20 to 30 mentors working with new participants in the program.

“They will pick them (new participants) up at the jail and take them to a meeting or a church service or just out to have coffee and talk,” Potts said.

“She always had faith in me and believed in me.”

Now Potts is being awarded for her work with other recovery addicts. She received the Champion of Recovery Award from the Idaho Mental Health Division of Behavioral Health. The award coincides with September being National Recovery Month.

According to a letter emailed to Potts from the Division of Behavioral Health, each year the agency asks the regional behavioral health boards to nominate people from their region who have made a systemic, community-based or individual difference in reducing the stigma around recovery. Potts met the criteria.

Sarah Cartier, one of the recovering addicts who graduated Wood Court and was helped by Potts, says she appreciated the help.

“She is always bubbly and loving,” Cartier said. “I have always struggled with having friendships with women. Libertie was the first woman I trusted. To find that characteristic in her was very impactful for me. She always had faith in me and believed in me.”

Wood Court participants are expected to work full time while also attending classes and working through a variety of steps. They are also expected to meet with Judge Dane Watkins in court and be properly dressed for court. When participants have had a great week, Watkins gives them praise and encouragement. If they have broken any of the rules then they face sanctions, such as community service hours.

“We treat them like they are capable adults,” Potts said. “They have to have a full-time job.”

Potts believes recovering addicts sharing their stories and showing how life can be better without drug use will reduce the stigma around recovery from addiction.