Drug court changed his life and gave him 'a sense of purpose,' a graduate says.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County will use a 425,000 state grant to expand the services of its drug court program to include counseling of members of offenders' families, the county alcohol and drug addiction services director said Wednesday.
"The new money will enable us to serve families. That's been a missing gap. We haven't been able to focus on the entire family unit," until now, said David L. Schaffer, executive director of the county's alcohol and drug addiction services board.
"We're going to take the primary offender and help them work more closely with their family, so we don't take this person, get them better, and throw them back into a family unit that's dysfunctional," he added.
The money was awarded to the county board by the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, whose director, Carolyn Givens, attended a drug court graduation ceremony for five offenders at the Mahoning County Courthouse. Mahoning County's ADAS board is one of only six recipients of these grants statewide.
"It was a total change of life. Some of the things that I was doing, I could be locked up for a long time for, and I'm not doing them anymore. I'm drug-free," said Mike, a Wednesday graduate who asked that he be referred to only on a first name basis.
"It gave me a sense of purpose," Mike said of drug court.
Mike, 21, of Lake Milton, who said the theft charge against him was related to his former drug abuse, is enrolled in the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute and his goal is to become a chef.
Those arrested on drug charges or for theft and other drug-related offenses, who have not been charged with violent crimes, drug trafficking or sex offenses, may apply for drug court. If they complete the 12- to 18-month drug court program, charges against them are dismissed.
To complete drug court, they must meet regularly with the judge and a case manager, attend a rehabilitation program, pass periodic drug screenings, get a high school diploma or GED and obtain a job and a driver's license if they don't have these items.
Drug courts, judges
The county's four drug courts and their judges are: felony drug court, common pleas Judge John M. Durkin; county misdemeanor drug court, county court Judge Scott D. Hunter; juvenile treatment and family dependency court, juvenile court Judge F. Theresa Dellick, and Youngstown Municipal Treatment Court, Judge Robert A. Douglas.
"Their defining moment wasn't when they got picked up [arrested]. Their defining moment is this graduation and moving forward with their lives and accepting responsibility for the twist or the turn that their life might have taken and seeing that as an opportunity to build upon their recovery," Givens said. "Treatment works. People recover. People move back into quality of life."
Mahoning County was one of the first in the state to build upon the collaboration between the treatment and criminal justice systems, she added. The state now has 67 drug courts, including the four in Mahoning County, she noted.
Judge Durkin's drug court, which was among the first to be established in Ohio, has had 292 graduates since its inception in 1998.
"It's desirable because it affords an opportunity for people to change their lives. They're battling this addiction. We know treatment works," Judge Durkin said. "We do ask a lot, and it's very demanding, but we think the benefits are certainly well worth it, not only for them individually, but for us as a community."