GALLIPOLIS — Every year, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sponsors a “Recovery Month” to increase awareness and understanding of substance use and mental health disorders and celebrate the people who recover. This year, Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery (CPR) asked the Gallipolis Municipal Court to highlight its specialized drug court docket.
Municipal Judge Eric Mulford said that this year’s Recovery Month theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger.” Mulford said that this year’s theme reminds him to be thankful for the fact that the local courts, law enforcement, and behavioral health agencies see the value in providing team-based wrap-around services to individuals who ask for help in recovering from substance use disorders.
The municipal court’s drug court is known by its participants as the “Recovery Court,” and has had 30 participants this year. Mulford said that he appreciates the dedication and seriousness the participants bring to the program.
“We have a very special group of people working hard in Recovery Court right now, and they each try to encourage and lift up one another,” the judge said. “It’s a team effort on the part of the both the treatment providers as well as the participants.”
Shallon Schuldt is a probation officer and the director of Specialized Docket Programs for the Gallipolis Municipal Court. Mulford said that he and Schuldt recognize that defendants who are involved in the Recovery Court require stability in meeting their own basic needs, such as for food and shelter, before they can focus on recovery. The treatment team helps the participants establish stable housing, food sources and medical care, then begins dealing directly with the addiction. Participants are permitted to consider traditional, faith-based, or medication-assisted treatment.
The Recovery Court follows a program designed by the Ohio Commission on Specialized Dockets, an arm of the Ohio Supreme Court. Each participant in the Recovery Court must successfully advance through four phases of intensive out-patient or community-based treatment over the course of a year to achieve graduation from the program. The first eight weeks of Recovery Court is dedicated to achieving stability in the participant’s life and establishing an individualized treatment plan, followed by 10 months of treatment while working on educational and vocational skills, learning moral and ethical thinking, developing pro-social behaviors, making restitution to crime victims and performing community service, and generally improving the ability to react to stress, triggers for drug use, and everyday problems.
“A specialized docket is a problem-solving docket,” Mulford said. “We work together to identify the underlying cause of a problem and solve it while emphasizing that everyone needs to accept personal responsibility for their decisions and actions. Ultimately, a lot of healing takes place, which is good for the participants, their families, and the entire community.”
The goals for every participant, as outlined by the supreme court, are: to develop a non-criminal pattern of living; to learn to be alcohol and other drug free; to adjust to a drug-free lifestyle; to learn better ways of coping with life; to enhance employment skills through educational pursuits and/or vocational or alternative training; to attend and become involved in community support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and others; to increase social skills, self-esteem, and self-motivation; and to learn the warning signs of relapse and develop and implement a relapse prevention plan.
The municipal court’s specialized docket specifically is designed as a post-conviction program for defendants sentenced to probation instead of jail for a non-violent misdemeanor crime. The primary goal of a specialized docket is to reduce recidivism, thereby improving public safety.
“Since January, 2017, we have had only three graduates of the Recovery Court who were charged with a new crime, so from a recidivism standpoint this program is very successful,” Mulford said. “One of our new goals is to integrate some of what we have learned from administering the specialized docket into a pre-trial services program to more quickly identify and intervene with defendants who are in need of, and would react in a positive way to, our assistance.”
The municipal court’s treatment team consists of the judge, probation officers, and representatives of Health Recovery Services, Hopewell Health Centers, Step Stone Initiatives, Holzer Health Systems, Spectrum Outreach Services, TASC of Southeast Ohio, Integrated Services, and the Field of Hope Community Campus.
For more information about the municipal court, visit the court’s website at gmcourt.org, or call the bailiff at 740-446-9400, ext. 222.
The CPR coalition consists of area nonprofits such as God’s Hands at Work, the Field of Hope Community Campus, as well as behavioral health organizations such as Health Recovery Services, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office, Gallipolis Neighborhood Watch, Holzer Health System, the Gallipolis City Commission, Gallia County Health Department, and more. With the goal of fighting drug abuse in Gallia, the group commonly meets the second Monday of the month at noon in various rooms at Holzer Medical Center. The group can be reached at its Facebook page.
Stories of program graduates and those currently in the program will appear in an upcoming issue of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.