An innovative approach to participant management

September 25, 2019 / 0 Comments

Meet Layla Eichler, a Treatment Coordinator for The First Judicial District Treatment Court. Since 2015, Layla has been passionately leading her team. Her hands-on approach is unique, and we’re excited for her to share how she’s built community within her court. 

How did you get started in the industry?

I feel like this field has chosen me. I came from a broken drug family. I dropped out of school in the 9th grade and woke up one day and panicked thinking I would be just like my mother if I didn’t make a change. Since that day, I have worked very hard to be where I am. I feel as if I am no better than my participants; I was lucky enough to have the support that I took advantage of to better my life and give me the self-confidence I lacked.

Tell us about your role.

I work with a fantastic team of six, once a month we have all three phases, and I cook lunch for everyone. We also meet after work for dinner every other Wednesday with other members of the community—all of this has brought us very close. We can disagree with staffing and walk out and still meet for dinner. Being close as a team is important to us—especially as we strive to bring the same community feel to our participants and court as a whole. 

We’ve been told that you do some incredible things with your participants.  

First, I can pick ten great qualities from every one of my participants, even when they are not doing so great. I feel they know and can feel my passion for helping them build a better life. It’s easy for me to talk about my job and what we do for the community. Having an open dialogue about my role has brought a lot of attention to our court in the best way. Often, we don’t have the funds to pay for outings, and the judge will contribute—we do whatever it takes with our resources to ensure the participants have a positive experience—especially with new, sober-oriented events.

Let’s talk about those events.

Every week I hike with the participants. I organize fitness challenges for our team. We recently finished a challenge where we worked with a personal trainer every day for a month—our team won! I try to keep my participants active, enjoying the outside, and involved in the community. I also try to include my graduates in everything I do. I’ll host BBQs at the lake. We’ve gone skiing, ice skating, indoor rock climbing, and bowling—we even play in a kickball league. Our judge is also very supportive of our community-oriented approach. It can be tough to organize everyone’s schedule, but he makes sure we can block off time for these activities. One of my favorite things is playing baseball with our team. The local baseball field opens their space for us, and I’ll make food for a picnic—we all have a great time. I genuinely believe that this involvement helps our participants and graduates tremendously.

What advice would you give to other coordinators?

The participants know I’m there for them and they value the honest, direct dialogue we have. I think that’s the most important part—showing participants that you value them and truly care. Don’t be afraid to get involved and take the extra steps to meet them where they are.

I have had conversations about boundaries, we live in a rural area, and I can tell you the joy the participants get from seeing team members eat at a place they work. They love that support. I also throw graduation parties for them. Most of my participants have never had a graduation party, so I enjoy having a celebration for them. I personally plan and cook everything. It means so much to them. It’s very involved, but leading my team in this way feels right. I’ll always be this way—a passionate, persistent coordinator. I’m proud of it.

Do you have a unique approach to managing your court or know someone doing incredible work? Send us a note. We want to highlight the untold stories of people like Layla doing impassioned work for their communities. Share!

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