Tribunal would need resources, treatment options from community

Last updated: July 30. 2014 10:00PM - 2067 Views
By - ghuffenberger@civitasmedia.com

Gary Huffenberger|Wilmington News JournalWednesday's community forum on the local opiate addiction problem was well attended. More than 110 people packed the courtroom.
Gary Huffenberger|Wilmington News JournalWednesday's community forum on the local opiate addiction problem was well attended. More than 110 people packed the courtroom.
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The judge of the local felony court proposed a specialized court be created here for people charged with drug-abuse activity.

Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck made the proposal Wednesday at a community forum on the opiate and heroin addiction problem in Clinton County. About 112 people attended the forum which lasted more than two hours, drawing many comments from residents ranging from clergy, social workers and recovering addicts.

The court Rudduck recommends be instituted, he said, are in general considered “therapeutic courts where the judge is at the head of the individualized treatment program to be established” for defendants who illegally use drugs.

The reason to host a public forum on the matter is such a court, if it’s going to be effective, requires multiple treatment options to be available. Currently, the available resources are “sparse,” said Rudduck.

At the close of the forum, Rudduck said he plans to form a steering committee and go through the application process through the Ohio Supreme Court to establish a drug court. The new court would be an “offshoot” of the Clinton County Common Pleas Court where he presides.

A drug court tries “with the help of the community” to comprehensively address the multiple problems that trigger criminal drug activity, said Rudduck.

“With this [new] court, I will be meeting with the offenders regularly, probably weekly, to get regular reports on the progress of the offender in treatment programming designed especially for the offender,” the judge said.

The types of options and resources that need to be available, said Rudduck, include “transitional living where we can have people go when they get out of prison,” detoxication programs, residential treatment programming and vocational training.

Prior to opening up the forum to public comments, Rudduck read from a letter from the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction, Gary C. Mohr. In it, Mohr wrote, “The only way to make an impact [on these offenders] is a collective will to address non-violent drug offenders differently than we have in the past.”

Clinton County Commissioner Pat Haley said when he lived in Virginia he was familiar with drug courts there. He said they seemed to work but they take a lot of resources.

Clinton County Public Defender Rob Baker said there needs to be “some sort of continuum” of treatment to help prevent relapses.

Clinton County Chief Felony Prosecutor Brian A. Shidaker said he thinks the biggest problem here is a lack of a structured detox program.

“We have to get in front of the problem,” Shidaker said.

One speaker said there needs to be a drug court with community backing, and an investment in transitional living.

Jerry Taylor said there is a definite need for a transitional-living setup. He said he had been fortunate to have a loving family and a supportive church.

Another speaker said the most important thing and resource to help him through drug problems were “people who mentored” him.

Gary Huffenberger can be reached at 937-382-2574 ext. 2512 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.

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