Richland County Common Pleas Court Judge Brent N. Robinson wants to make the existing drug court better by adding the component of medically assisted options for the treatment of people with opiate addictions. A town hall meeting was held in his court chambers Thursday to discuss these and other options for helping the community fight the battle of opiate addiction.
On June 30, Robinson and a team of community leaders attended the Ohio Judicial Symposium on opiate addiction. The team included local representatives from judicial, law enforcement and treatment service providers. They discussed challenges for addressing opiate addiction and strategized for potential solutions.
“I was especially interested in the treatment options that we were going to learn there,” said Robinson. “That was the reason for having the symposium, to discuss the latest treatment options that we can have for opiate addiction, because it is a community problem.”
Robinson said the current drug court – a specialized docket court in which drug offenders can go through probation and treatment instead of going to jail – treated individuals on an abstinence basis and had not explored much into a medically assisted treatment program.
Because opiate addiction is a community problem, the town hall meeting was comprised of community representatives from the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, local law enforcement, Richland County Commissioners, medical representatives from Third Street Family Health Services, Catalyst Life Services, Community Action for Capable Youth (CACY) and the Richland County jail. There were also community members and other representatives from interested local agencies.
Medically assisted treatment options require a physician/patient relationship, Robinson said. Dr. Brett Toward, M.D., the chief medical officer at Third Street Family Health Services, will assist with the diagnosis and treatment plan processes.
“This is just one component,” he said. “No one pill is going to fix the problem, so they will still have to do the traditional treatment based program.”
Eighty percent of heroin addicts started by abusing prescription medicine, Robinson said. “It’s basically a nationwide problem now.”
Joe Trolian, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, said they will team up with CACY, DARE and the Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Addiction Outreach Program (UMADAOP) for preventative efforts, “to stop it before it starts, making sure we’re getting education into the community…”
On the treatment side of things, Trolian said the board has placed monies at their three contracted drug and alcohol facilities – 3C Counseling, UMADAOP, and Catalyst Life Services – to help all addicts get into medically assisted treatment programs.
“Finally we do not want people to just stop with the treatment,” he said. “We want them to change their lifestyle.”
Trolian said the board now covers the cost for getting an initial mental health assessment. If there is no health insurance, Trolian said, the board has even cut back their sliding fee scale in an effort to help people seek the treatment they need. There are also mental health services in the courts and in the jail, he said.
“We want to make sure that every door is as wide open as we can make it,” he said. “And even though we have wrapped services around the courts and around the jails, we would much rather you come through the door prior to you ever being involved with the criminal justice system.”
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