WILMINGTON – The You-Turn Recovery Docket is evolving to better help addicts in Clinton County.
The drug court, which started in January, is working on changing its process to make sure people get the help they need to get over drug addictions, said Clinton County Court of Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck.
Drug courts are not that new to the United States. The first ones began in the 1990s in Florida, Rudduck said, because that state had many problems with cocaine.
“(Florida thought) ‘Instead of criminalizing non-violent possession of drug cases, maybe we ought to look at a different way and look at treatment,’” he said.
Cocaine might have been the problem in the ‘90s when drug courts started, but heroin is now the epidemic.
“We go through these drug epidemics periodically,” he said.
Heroin originally became a problem when alcohol was a popular drug to abuse, Rudduck said. There were a lot of domestic violence cases because of alcohol and soon women learned the opiate mellowed people out. Heroin was legal at the time, so women gave the drug to their husbands. The husbands soon became addicted to the drug, though.
“We started fighting a war, criminalizing use of this one-time legal drug,” Rudduck said.
The drug court here in Clinton County started the same way the drug courts in Florida started: Rudduck wanted to find a way to help the addicts recover.
“A lot of the members of the public just say, ‘Why can’t these people just stop?’” Rudduck said. “I’m telling you, 99 percent of them want to stop.”
Rudduck said the analogy he uses to explain drug addiction to people is smoking cigarettes.
“Let’s say the government said … the marketing, sale and production of tobacco products are illegal,” he said. “If that happened, you think people might relapse? You there there might be a black market? You think they might say, ‘Should we put somebody in prison because they relapsed on cigarettes?’”
Rudduck said the reason he jumped to get a drug court started in the county is because he believes addiction is a health problem before it turns into a criminal problem. The only reason it turns into a criminal problem, he said, is because people go to the extreme to support their unhealthy habit.
“People end up breaking into houses, writing bad checks, stealing things, lying, deceiving to get their drugs,” he said.
The type of heroin that is on the streets now is not the same heroin that was on the streets when it was legal, Rudduck said. The heroin now is laced with fentanyl, which could be the reason for the overdoses police have been dealing with recently, he said. People do not recognize the strength of this new drug and underestimate it’s power, he said.
“When we’re losing more people in Ohio to drug overdoses than we are to auto accidents that’s a striking statistic,” he said.
To get into the drug court, people must plead guilty to the charges they are sentenced with. After being charged, they can fill out an application online at you-turn-drug-docket.org to be considered for the drug court. Rudduck said he interviews people for the program and not all are accepted.
The people who are accepted into drug court are not exempt from going to jail though, he said.
“We just withhold sanctions until we believe we can no longer work with them,” he said.
Rudduck said the drug court program is 18 months because change cannot happen overnight and there are many ups and downs during the process of recovery.
“The whole point is instead of criminalizing addiction, we want to try and treat it as a health problem,” he said. “ You just don’t turn addictions around in a week, in a month, in six months. That’s why the program is 18 months.”
Having one relapse to drugs, whether it be pills, heroin or alcohol, will not mean a person will get kick out of the program, Rudduck said.
“We don’t consider it a failure when somebody tests positives for drugs,” he said. “It’s going to be a failure when we send them to prison.”
Rudduck said the drug court’s goal is to have a 60-65 percent success rate.
“If we reach that, that would be about five or six times better than what people typically do in general recovery programs,” he said.
Another goal of the drug court, he said, is to learn more about the participants.
“We’ve been trying to understand where these people are coming from and how far they’ve got to go,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is instill a sense of camaraderie (in the drug court).”
The drug court meets twice a month to discuss how the participants are doing and how their treatment is going, Rudduck said.
Rudduck said he wants to grow the drug court and give the participants a chance to tell their stories to inspire addicts to get help and to deter people from getting into drugs.
“Some of the best spokesmen for recovery aren’t judges; it’s the people who have been there and seen their life turned around,” he said. “I think those stories need to be told.”
People will not be considered a success from the drug court until they finish the 18 month program and have received all the help the drug court can offer them, he said.
“The proof though ultimately will be after we’re out of their hair,” Rudduck said.
To help make the drug court successful, Rudduck wants the community to get involved with the bi-monthly meetings.
“What we’re trying to do is get a community involvement in here to try and help these people,” Rudduck said.
Reach Dylanne Petros at 937-382-2574, ext. 2514, or on Twitter @DylannePetros.