Hocking County Received Grant To Help Drug Offenders

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The illegal drug market in the U.S. is one of the most profitable in the world attracting the most ruthless, sophisticated and aggressive drug traffickers.

Over the past few years, Hocking County has seen an alarming infiltration of drugs through the U.S. 33 corridor.

However, local law enforcement and the court system are working together to help fight drug abuse and trafficking in the area.

While the drug trade leads to a path of violent crimes, drug abusers continue to fill our court systems, hospitals and prisons as their children are often neglected, abused and sometimes abandoned.

To help combat the ongoing problem, Hocking County Common Pleas Court applied for and received the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant in the amount of $59,962.14.

The growing epidemic of drugs puts a lot of demand and pressure on the court system to do something to help abusers and addicts. Each of the local court systems has a drug court in place to help those who are addicts and want the help to get sober.

In Hocking County, as high as 80 percent of non-violent adult offender cases before Hocking County Common Pleas Court have some relationship with consumption of alcohol and/or other drugs. Of those offenders, including youth and adults, approximately 50 percent have substance dependency problems.

Generational use is a factor in Hocking County as youth and adults see using as a “rite of passage.”

In 2009, common pleas court processed 179 cases; 210 in 2010; and in 2011, they processed 264 cases, averaging approximately a 17 percent increase per year.

With the aid of the four-year grant, common pleas court is hoping to help offenders get and stay sober as well as lead productive lives.

“This will make a huge difference in our community,” stated Tami Freeman, common pleas clerk and grant writer. “They will either go through the program or go to prison. For many repeat offenders, this is their saving grace.”

Freeman said she is hoping to be able to serve at least 40 drug offenders this year on the program. Those enrolled in the program pay a $250 fee, which goes back into the program. They also must appear in court every Tuesday no matter what happens.

“They have to be here,” Freeman stated, “and they do show up whether they are sick or whatever. They have to want to do it. Bottom line is, they have to want help. We give them the tools and support, but they have to want to help themselves.”

Freeman will re-apply for the grant each year. The second year, the court will receive 75 percent of the original grant; the third year, 50 percent; and the fourth year, 25 percent.

“The $250 fee they pay to get into the program will help us make up the difference in the funding year to year,” Freeman added.

During the past two years, Hocking County has seen a dramatic increase in violent crimes as well as property crimes associated with drug abuse. Heroin and Oxycontin have become prevalent in the county and are believed to be the link to the increase in criminal activity throughout the county.

The program is a four-phase program, which takes a minimum of 12 months to complete.

The criteria for eligibility for assessment includes: the offender must be a Hocking County resident (adult) with a non-violent felony charge; the offense must be alcohol or drug-related or the offender has a history of alcohol or drugs use; and the offender must have a prior offense.

Phase one is the stabilization phase of the program, which is a minimum of eight weeks in which participants complete a comprehensive bio psycho social assessment and referral to alcohol or drug treatment.

Phase two or intensive treatment phase is a minimum of 14 weeks where participants focus on alcohol or drug therapy rather than education.

Phase three is the transition phase. While the participant continues with alcohol or drug treatment, the focus is geared more toward relapse prevention and an individualized aftercare plan.

Phase four or aftercare community integration phase is three months. Participants are seen by the case manager and parole office a minimum of one time per week, drug tested one time per week; seen by an alcohol or drug counselor as determined by the treatment plan; and seen by the judge one time per month for a status hearing.

Each drug court participant is drug tested both at regular intervals depending on the program phase and randomly for alcohol and other drugs throughout the entire program.

The Hocking County Court of Common Pleas has built and will continue to maintain relationships with primary and mental health care providers, all the local and regional education and vocational service providers and other community partners over the years and will refer all participants to those partners when appropriate.

Freeman, who has played a major role in the court system since 2000, first started working with Hocking County Municipal Court Judge Fred Mong in his drug court. She enjoyed helping others so much she has continued to follow her passion.

“I learned from the best,” she remarked. “He (Mong) taught me a lot. Like I said, I learned from the best.”