Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Announces Plan for 30 New Drug Courts to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine unveiled the latest aspect of his plan Tuesday to fight opioid addiction by creating more specialty courts statewide.

The plan is the latest announced component of his upcoming budget proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.  If approved, it would allocate $2.5 million in 2020 for the creation of “15 specialty dockets” as well as an additional $5 million in 2020 to “support the newly created specialty dockets and fund an additional 15.”

Governor DeWine said of the courts:

Specialty dockets give judges the flexibility necessary when they encounter someone in the court system who is may benefit more from treatment for substance use disorder rather than serving jail time,…These specialty courts are a proven way to hold those with substance use disorder accountable and ensure participation in mental health and addiction treatment.

According to the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, Specialty Courts, often referred to as “Drug Courts,” “specialize in the adjudication and treatment of offenders who use drugs.”  Judges across the state found that they were seeing the same individuals again and again for drug-related offenses. These courts were designed to more effectively address the issues relating to these individuals.

The only offenders eligible for these courts are those who have been charged with nonviolent, “low-level” offenses. They are, in most cases, suffering from a series of issues that compound their drug use. “Most offenders seen in drug courts have many issues in addition to drug abuse, such as employment, education or mental health problems.”

A recent study commissioned by Ohio found five key facts in favor of these courts:

1. Drugs Courts Enhance Treatment.

Drug courts and judicial involvement increase treatment effectiveness. Data shows beneficial outcomes from drug courts. Qualitative assessment shows judicial involvement is a critical component of the beneficial outcomes. And treatment professionals support the benefits of judicial involvement.

2. Drug Courts Increase System Collaboration.
Drug courts increase collaboration between the court and treatment providers. They also increase collaboration between court probation and law enforcement.

3. Drug Courts Support Related Services.
Innovative approaches to reducing and preventing crime can result from the presence of a drug court. DUI and Reentry courts, progressive probation software and community policing/court probation projects are a few of the initiatives arising from Ohio drug courts.

4. Drug Courts are not Soft on Crime.
Accountability and responsibility are the primary themes of drug court intervention, with offenders being held accountable through drug testing, intensive supervision, treatment and graduated sanctions. These necessary program standards are reflected in the success drug court participants experience through reduced recidivism rates post-graduation.

5. Drug Courts are Cost-Effective.
Court and treatment professionals believe that drug courts are cost effective. They believe this because drug courts break the cycle of drug use and crime that are so costly to Ohio communities.

The full report can be found here.

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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mike DeWine” by Mike DeWine. 







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