Getting an understanding of ‘drug court’

Beth Sergent

February 28, 2014

POINT PLEASANT — Drug Court is up and running in Mason County.

Chris Johnson, director of Mason County’s Drug Court program, spoke at Thursday’s Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition meeting.

Johnson said the program, which is funded and mandated by the state, began Nov. 1, 2013, in Mason County. Johnson’s office is on the first floor of the Mason County Courthouse, with the county providing the space for the program that currently has four people enrolled with a capacity of 15 at any given time.

Johnson said it is an intensive program that is very structured. He added that he sees those enrolled in the program a minimum of two times a week; those people also go before Judge David W. Nibert once a week; there is also a meeting with a treatment team once a week, not to mention frequent random drug tests.

Those in the drug court program must go through a referral process and screening. A panel of people must agree to let the person in the program. The panel includes court personnel and the prosecuting attorney. Johnson performs a risk assessment on the person and a state-funded therapist does an evaluation.

Johnson said people in the drug court program have no chance at home confinement or probation and are likely to go back to jail without intervention — going back to jail costs the taxpayer $23,000 a year to house one person. In short, Johnson is looking for people at “high risk.”

Of the four people in his program, Johnson said he has one person who has been an addict since they were 16 and has now been 92 days clean. He said the drug court program is there to help people in the community build life, employment and social skills. Those in the program are in it for 12 months.

In other business at the meeting:

The anti-drug coalition has been working to bring a permanent drug drop off box to Mason County for people to safely dispose of their prescription medications. Coalition member Diana Riddle announced the county has agreed to allow a drug drop off box to be placed in the entry of the Mason County Courthouse on the first floor. This locked, secure box will be purchased by the coalition for $800 and placed at a later date.

Also announced, the Drug Endangered Babies seminar will take place from 6-9 p.m. April 24 at the First Church of the Nazarene on Mt. Vernon Avenue. Keynote speaker will be Dr. Judy Romano, president of the Ohio Academy of Pediatrics. This is a catered event that will provide local health care professionals with CEU’s (continuing education). Mountain State Healthy Families of Mason County is overseeing this event which is grant funded.

A “Celebrate Recovery” group will start meeting in March at 7 p.m. at the First Church of the Nazarene on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Point Pleasant. Refreshments are served at 6:30 p.m.

The anti-drug coalition has purchased educational materials to be given away at the upcoming Youth Expo on March 20-21 at the National Guard Armory, and at the Teen Institute on May 8-10 at the 4-H campground.

The coalition will conduct a town hall meeting on the dangers for underage drinking from 6:30-8:30 p.m. May 15 at the Trinity Church Community Building.

The coalition recently purchased a display for the Loved Ones Support Group.

In other announcements:

The Second Annual Courage Walk for Epilepsy is April 5 at Riverfront Park. The Black Knight Revue is March 7-9 and Wahama’s annual dinner theater follows the weekend after the Black Knight Revue.