Court is in session in the Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas in this 2012 file photo. On Tuesday, the court announced it has instituted a specialized Drug Court. (DHI Media File Photo)
Court is in session in the Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas in this 2012 file photo. On Tuesday, the court announced it has instituted a specialized Drug Court. (DHI Media File Photo)

 

VAN WERT — The problem of drugs in Van Wert County continues to affect the people of the county. The vast majority of cases in Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas involve drugs, and a large part of those involve the use of heroin. In response, the court announced Tuesday it has instituted a specialized Drug Court.

A release from the court called the situation a “prescription opiate and heroin epidemic that is plaguing the entire county including the Van Wert community.”

The Drug Court program, called “A New Day, The Right Way” is an intensive outpatient drug treatment program. It uses the prescription drug Vivitrol (Naltrexone) which will be administered and monitored by a physician. It is “Designed to assist individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction toward the goal of long term recovery,” according to the court release.

Those participating in Drug Court must participate in an evidence-based intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment program through Westwood Behavioral Health Center and also attend existing community based support programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery, as well as go through intensive drug testing and supervision. Together, these three steps are designed to assist those with drug and alcohol dependence issues to effectively manage their recovery from the addiction.

Individuals wishing to participate in Drug Court must be approved by Judge Charles D. Steele of the Van Wert Common Pleas Court. Participants who qualify will receive the prescription medication Vivitrol which is made to give the person a distaste for the drugs and blocks the euphoria associated with prescription opiate and heroin use. It is not an opiate replacement drug as is the case with such drugs as Methodone and Suboxone.

In addition to the medical and substance abuse interventions, the participants will appear regularly before Judge Steele who will, with the aid of the treatment team, continually monitor the participants’ progress and compliance. A Drug Court Coordinator has been employed by Westwood Behavioral Health Center to administer the program and insure communication between the agencies involved.

The program is funded by Tri-County Mental Health and Addiction Services Board, Ohio Medicaid, Private Insurance, Private Donations and the Special Projects Fund of the Court of Common Pleas.

This program has been made possible by the collaboration of the Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas and Probation Department, Van Wert Municipal Court and Probation Department, Westwood Behavioral Health System, the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office and Correctional Facility, the Tri-County Mental Health and Addiction Services Board, Family Health Services of Northwest Ohio, the Van Wert County Department of Jobs and Family Services, and Van Wert County Children’s Services.

The Drug Court has been considered as a possible way to combat the drug problem locally, and Vivitrol was mentioned by Steele specifically after a number of people attended Ohio’s Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction in January. Judge Steele and Chief Probation Officer Bruce Showalter have also observed established Drug Courts in Mercer, Hardin and Allen Counties.

Similar programs in Ohio have shown promise in combating the recent surge in prescription opiate and heroin addiction and have the strong support of Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other government agencies. It is the belief and hope of the Court and its’ partners that the program will help stem the tide of lives lost or ruined by drug and alcohol addiction.

For more information, contact the Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas Probation Department at (419) 238-2825.