Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has made solving the opioid crisis the cornerstone of his new administration. Mahoning County’s Drug Court has his attention and he was in Youngstown on Tuesday to learn more about it.
Throughout DeWine’s campaign, he promised to add more drug courts across Ohio. The $7.5 million he plans to add to the state’s drug court budget will be allocated throughout the years.
DeWine is pushing for 30 more drug courts in Ohio, adding to the existing 150.
“For many people, this kind of tough love is the only way they can get sober,” he said.
Drug courts allow people who are arrested on drug charges to enter a program that will help them get clean and on the right path.
“Specialty dockets give judges the flexibility necessary when they encounter someone in the court system who may benefit more from treatment for substance use disorder rather than serving jail time,” DeWine said. “These specialty courts are a proven way to hold those with substance use disorder accountable, and ensure participation in mental health and addiction treatment.”
Once a person successfully completes a specialized docket program, they are often able to reintegrate back into the workforce without a felony conviction.
Mahoning County’s drug court is one of the most successful in the state.
“It works,” DeWine said.
That’s one reason why he talked to those involved on Tuesday.
“It’s hard because it’s intimate,” DeWine said.
He said Judge John Durkin is very focused.
“It’s not a job, it’s a passion,” Durkin said.
Durkin started the drug court in Mahoning County two decades ago.
“We have people who care. We have some of the best treatment in the state of Ohio,” he said.
That treatment includes drug rehab and forcing participants to get a job if they don’t have one, a license or a GED.
“Drug court is a simple program for complicated people,” said Jessica Lee, a drug court graduate.
She was using opioids and any hardcore drugs she could find.
“If I hadn’t been arrested, and got a felony and came here, I would have died,” Lee said.
Not only did she complete the course, but Durkin said she’s proof drug courts work.
“They’re giving back, they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. It saves taxpayers a lot of money,” DeWine said.
With the $7.5 million for drug courts, DeWine’s total budget is $25.5 million. He plans to submit that proposal to the General Assembly soon.