Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Star Beacon-Ashtabula,Ohio-Drug Court Honors First Grads

Published January 12, 2010 08:28 pm - A clean slate and a fresh start were awarded to two young women who were the first to graduate from the Ashtabula County Drug Court program.

Drug Court honors first grads
Treatment program offers lesser offenders a clean start

By ELLEN KOLMAN - Staff Writer -
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — A clean slate and a fresh start were awarded to two young women who were the first to graduate from the Ashtabula County Drug Court program.

“This is a big accomplishment, something I’ve never been able to complete before,” said one of the graduates who wished to remain anonymous. “Everyone involved really helped and I am willing and eager to improve my life. It is hard work, but it (Drug Court) does work if you want it,” she said at Tuesday’s graduation.

Ashtabula County Drug Court consists of a group of people who volunteer their time to give people who have been convicted of a lesser felony drug charge a chance to be helped with the payoff of a clean record, said Lake Area Recovery Center Director Kathleen Kinney.

“This gives people, usually first-time offenders, the chance to plead guilty and be accepted into drug court, then they get into treatment, and are regularly accountable to the judge,” Kinney said. “We receive no monetary assistance or wages for this program.”

The drug court consists of Kinney, Ashtabula County Prosecutor Tom Sartini, Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court Judge Alfred Mackey, LARC Clinical Director Ana Canales, Ashtabula County Public Defenders Office Director Marie Lane,, Brett Kiser of the Ashtabula County Probation Departmen and Kim Massery, admissions director of the Northeast Ohio Community Alternative Program.

Sartini and Mackey spearheaded the Drug Court initiative, which is 14 months old, but was an eight-year struggle to begin.

“We are very proud of our first graduates and hopefully through their hard work following the program and the drug court team’s commitment, these young women have the tools to become productive members of society,” Sartini said.

There are now more than 30 participants in Drug Court.

“Judge Mackey is motivated and I cannot give him enough credit,” Sartini said. “Even though we had no money for Drug Court, we knew it was needed and decided to go ahead and see what happens.”

“The program is individualized treatment plan to fit the person’s needs, and it is very hard work and lasts a minimum of one year,” Mackey said.

The team determines the suitability of an individual for the program, who must first undergo gal and chemical evaluations. Violent offenders, drug traffickers, or DUI offenders (driving while intoxicated) are not permitted.

The treatment program includes the collaborative efforts of local agencies, including mental health services, family counseling, anger management, drug treatment programs which may include in-patient treatment (NEOCAP), and more.

“They must attend meetings four times a week, meet with their probation officer, work their treatment plan and appear before the judge at regular intervals,” Kinney said. “In the beginning they have to see the judge once a week, but as they make progress those appointments are less.”

“This is a holistic approach,” Canales said. “Usually people hide from law enforcement, but now they realize this is a friendly approach with people who care and our prosecuter has demonstrated such a heart for this program.”

Individuals enrolled in the program who are not doing well will have sanctions imposed. including being set back in the program or more frequent visits to the judge, placed in NEOCAP, jail time or dismissal from the program with their sentence imposed, Mackey said.

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