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New hope for rehab program and New Orleans lawyer

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 2:26 PM CDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published March 31, 2021 at 9:00 PM CDT - Updated April 1 at 3:58 PM on fox8live.com)

NEW ORLEANS (Great Health Divide) - A local attorney has put together a program that he hopes will help those suffering from drug and mental health issues. As he battles his own demons, he is now working with an impressive board to guide a group called ‘Quarters of Hope’, which he hopes will serve as an alternative to incarceration.

At one time he was one of the busiest attorneys at Tulane and Broad. There he was 13 years ago, talking about a big case. Rick Tessier also served on the board that restructured the state’s indigent defense system after Hurricane Katrina.

“I was a victim of my own success even being screwed up, I was successful,” said Tessier.

Since then, Tessier has been battling a wide range of drug, and health issues, but as he fights his way back, he takes on a new mission.

“There needs to be an alternative between going to jail and going on the streets and ‘Quarters of Hope’ will do that,” Tessier said.

Tessier has gathered an impressive group of board members Including five present and former judges. He hopes they will help develop a program that would provide drug and mental health counseling to individuals who need it, and to non-violent offenders as an alternative to jail.

“Their offenses such that they need to go to jail but they need an interim place where they can go and get the help that they need,” said board member Michie Bissell, who also serves on Loyola’s Board of Supervisors.

“Quarters of Hope” board member Michie Bissell also sits on Loyola’s board Of supervisors and for her this mission is personal. She lost her son Cliff Stout to drug abuse. He too was a local criminal defense attorney.

“The last rehab place looked at him and asked him to leave and he said mom they gave up on me. And I said well then, they just don’t give up on you, you have to work the program,” Bissell said.

“Quarters of Hope” organizers say an old school like Israel Augustine would be a perfect place for their proposed program. There is space here to train drug offenders in invocations, provide recreation, and allow for counseling, and it’s across the street from Orleans Criminal Court.

“There’s going to be a judge overlooking them, there’s gonna be a sponsor, a mentor, and a social worker and a psychiatrist,” said Tessier.

Tessier hopes to tap into several anti-drug grant programs, as he searches for a location that could assist dozens of people like himself.

“It cost me my bar license which was conditionally taken away. I’m in the process of getting that back. It destroyed my life. I mean utterly destroyed it,” Tessier said.

And he’s hoping to have “Quarters of Hope” set up on a trial basis early next year to assist others before it’s too late.

Aside from five judges, several religious leaders are also involved in trying to make “Quarters of Hope” a reality.

If you would like to help out, go to the “Quarters of Hope” Facebook page.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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