For more than a year, Fulton County’s drug court has been working to make a change in people’s lives. Common Pleas Judge Jeff Robinson told Archbold Rotarians on Friday that his court was facing an ever-increasing number of cases related to drug addiction (mostly opioid) and it was clear that punishment wasn’t working.
That’s when Judge Robinson learned about something called drug court, a specialty docket that must be approved by the Ohio Supreme Court. Unlike regular court, drug court emphasizes treatment instead of punishment for qualifying offenders who agree to give up some due process rights and to participate fully in a coordinated treatment plan that is closely monitored by the court and includes frequent drug screens — some of which are unannounced. In exchange, participants are assigned a treatment team that meets regularly with one goal: provide the support and encouragement necessary to help drug court participants overcome their addiction.
Those who are admitted to drug court will receive treatment and other supports that are part of an overall wellness curriculum that was developed by Carol Tiffany, who is court-employed. Participants progress at their own pace and learn the skills necessary to remain clean and sober, get the help they need to get a job and earn a paycheck, and ultimately restore relationships that had been destroyed because of their substance use and abuse.
The judge explained that this year he expects his court will hear more than 200 felony cases with perhaps 150 of those cases related to substance use in one way or another. Many, he said, involve theft which is needed to support an addiction that can cost $80 to $120 a day.
He emphasized that drug court isn’t an easy way of avoiding jail time for the participants or an easy program for the court to administer. At least through the initial phases of drug court, participants come before the judge every two weeks so he can hear of their successes and set-backs. His court monitors each participant’s progress on a weekly basis.
Set-backs will result in some type of consequence from the judge with the most severe resulting in removal from the program with a sentence for the original conviction imposed. However, successes are celebrated — with the ultimate success being graduation from the program.
So far, no one has graduated although several are nearing completion. The judge and Tiffany both agreed that the program has seen some remarkable successes as well as a few failures among its participants, who have represented all segments of Fulton County. From left: Lou Levy, who arranged the program, Carol Tiffany, and Judge Jeff Robinson.