Drug court sets guidelines

Pilot program scheduled to begin in January

Stakeholders in the pilot drug court planned to begin next year in the Washington County Court of Common Pleas met Thursday to outline parameters for admission and dismissal.

In October the Washington County Commissioners signed an 18-month contract with Oriana House, Inc. to administer the special docket program under Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi.

Further administration of the court program past that timeline is dependent on additional grant funding obtained.

Kerenyi led the meeting Thursday with members of the drug treatment, law enforcement and courts communities represented to discuss measures and edit requirements.

Kyle Davis, an assistant public defender, said Thursday that his interest was in making sure the program is truly another avenue to help his clients not return to the judicial system in the future.

“If they meet the criteria and this can truly help them it could be a very good option,” he said. “We have a lot of clients that we see repeatedly and their cases are founded in addiction. At least this way ideally they don’t return with future offenses.”

The group went line by line, tailoring an already approved program description for Seneca County Thursday, with the intent to meet the needs of Washington County.

“We want to think about how we’re going to identify the clients or offenders coming into the court,” noted Tessa Smith, research and grants administrator for Oriana House, a private 501(c)3 nonprofit which provides addiction treatment services, community corrections programs and behavioral health services in Ohio. “There are different layers of eligibility that courts in Ohio use and are recommended as best practices, but that’s what you at the table are here to decide.”

Some requirements decided Thursday were steered by anticipated future federal funding criteria while others initiated discussion between treatment providers and the adult parole authority to determine authority over clients.

“Our regular intervention-in-lieu cases we won’t put into the drug court program unless they’re non-compliant,” determined Kerenyi, noting those admitted to the voluntary program may come through a recommendation by the county prosecutor’s office, through their treatment provider or through the adult parole authority.

Other requirements that brought significant discussion included:

Relapse

Jason Varney, Oriana House vice president of correctional programs, noted that the purpose of a drug court program is to work with clients through inevitable relapses to rehabilitate with a wrap around of treatment, legal sanctions like jail or residential detox and to hold the client accountable to maintain sobriety.

All members around the table agreed that relapse is inevitable throughout the minimum 420-day program, with progressively stricter sanctions to be imposed the more a client is noncompliant with the program.

“Ultimately if they keep being noncompliant and it’s not working out I can terminate them from the program and they can go to prison,” said Kerenyi.

Drug testing

Drug testing is to be administered both by the Oriana House employees and by the Adult Parole Authority.

Varney introduced the newest Oriana employee to serve as the program coordinator, Aleisha Roberson.

Roberson has past experience working in drug courts in West Virginia.Varney said he is also in the process of hiring a caseworker for the program.

Court/Treatment Appearance

Traditionally, an offender who misses a treatment appointment or court hearing can be found in violation of their control under the Adult Parole Authority or have a warrant issued for their arrest.

But sanctions within the program would progress to those measures dependent on the individual circumstances.

Curfew

Traditionally, a parolee is required to be home by midnight while under community control.

However, if participating in the drug court program that curfew becomes more strict, beginning at 9:30 p.m. with participants earning later curfew times as they successfully complete the five phases of the program.

Prescribed Medication and Medical Marijuana

Treatment partners Kate Jiggins with Hopewell Health Centers and Janice McFarland with Life and Purpose Behavioral Health were quick to discuss a need for education with prescribers for clients with substance abuse disorders.

“Our program is an abstinence-based program and we cannot heal the psycho-social issues if we first don’t heal your brain from the chemicals that you’ve become addicted to,” noted McFarland.

This discussion tied in with the group’s leaning toward not allowing those with recommendations from doctors for medical marijuana to have the substance, though that will ultimately be decided per direction from the Ohio Supreme Court.

As a whole, the program is designed to treat high-need, high-risk offenders through an intensive accountability to the judge, treatment providers and adult parole authority.

The program is contracted to serve at most 30 clients at a time with the judge making the ultimate decision of who is accepted into the program based on qualifying criteria.

Washington County Common Pleas Judge-Elect John Triplett was also in the meeting and voiced his intention to take on the same parameters of a drug court program during his tenure on the bench after he takes office Jan. 1.

What’s next:

• Another stakeholder meeting will take place by the end of December to finalize requirements and name the drug court program.

• Oriana House will hire a case worker to complete its Washington County drug court staff.

• By the end of January, pending Ohio Supreme Court approval, the program will launch and accept up to 30 clients.

• Drug court hearings will be held on Monday mornings, beginning with court team meetings at 9 a.m. and then followed by client check-ins with the judge.

Source: Times research.

Drug court programming:

• Participants voluntarily give up the following rights:

• Right to due process.

• Right to remain silent.

• Right against self-incrimination.

• Right to freely associate.

• Right against unlawful search and seizure.

• Participants must attend regular court hearings, undergo random drug and alcohol testing, abide by rules of the program and probation, and obey all laws.

• If participants do not abide by requirements, they may be sanctioned to jail, residential treatment, additional testing and/or be terminated from the program.

Additional minimum requirements in each phase of the program under review include:

• Phase 1: Compliance:

• Minimum of 60 days.

• Secure safe housing.

• Abide by 9:30 p.m. curfew.

• Obtain insurance and proper medical care.

• Secure transport to and from treatment.

* In order to advance to the next phase a client must have maintained sobriety for the last 20 consecutive days.

• Phase 2: Engagement:

• A minimum of 90 days.

• Abide by 9:30 p.m. curfew.

• Attend at least two recovery support group meetings each week.

• Begin to address financial obligations and needs.

• Begin to address employment needs.

* In order to advance to the next phase a client must have maintained sobriety for the last 30 consecutive days.

• Phase 3: Growth:

• A minimum of 90 days.

• Abide by 10:30 p.m. curfew.

• Maintain financial obligations, needs and employment.

• Attend at least two recovery support group meetings each week.

• Engage in at least one pro-social activity every two weeks.

• Begin to develop a positive social network.

• Identify and eliminate criminal thinking patterns.

* In order to advance to the next phase a client must have maintained sobriety for the last 45 consecutive days.

• Phase 4: Development:

• A minimum of 90 days.

• Abide by 11 p.m. curfew.

• Engage in at least one pro-social activity every two weeks.

• Attend at least one recovery support group meeting each week.

• Develop and share a relapse prevention plan.

* In order to advance to the next phase a client must have maintained sobriety for the last 60 consecutive days.

• Phase 5: Maintenance:

• A minimum of 90 days.

• Abide by 11:30 p.m. curfew.

• Engage in at least two pro-social activities each month.

• Attend at least one recovery support group meeting each week.

• Submit an idea for a community engagement project to the drug court team for approval, then complete an approved project before graduation.

• Complete community plan and submit for approval.

* In order to advance to the next phase a client must have maintained sobriety for the last 90 consecutive days.

Source: Oriana House.

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