WILMINGTON — The judge who presides over the local drug court asked county commissioners Wednesday to consider playing a part in a more comprehensive approach to the opioid affliction here.
Their involvement could involve a commissioner serving on a coalition, as well as the county coffers being one of the financial sources to pay for a more encompassing strategy, said Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck.
Rudduck encouraged commissioners to begin discussing how to leverage county funds, in particular the money derived from the sale of the hospital. Other funding sources, he suggested, are HealthFirst of Clinton County, and the federal funds to become available under the CARA 2 Act of 2018. The original Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) from 2016 was authored by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
Rudduck said Hamilton County as a county already is getting poised to go after CARA funds — CARA 2 authorizes $1 billion in resources to evidence-based prevention, enforcement, treatment, and recovery programs. The judge said Clinton County needs to be in a position to do that, too.
Rudduck on Wednesday emphasized the opioid scourge has several facets, and so a more comprehensive approach is needed.
“I said from the beginning this is bigger than the criminal justice system can handle; we have our part, law enforcement has their part [and other government operations can have parts to play],” said Rudduck.
Lesser known aspects of the drug crisis that merit attention include a health issue concerning the incidence of Hepatitis C among opioid addicts, and an interest on the part of some to expand drug-treatment programming at the Clinton County Jail, Rudduck said.
Regarding the county-held funds that came from the wind-down operations at CMH, Rudduck was told Wednesday commissioners have not finalized the creation of the Legacy Fund, as that pool of funds are commonly called. Those dollars are for health, wellness and safety.
Rudduck said he can’t think of a better use of those dollars than to fight the opioid epidemic.
Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said commissioners have wanted to protect as much of the principal as possible and then award Legacy Fund grants from the interest earned, so that the funds can last for generations. He also said a body scanner requested for the jail to detect hidden drugs would be an ongoing expense and, as such, can fall under the General Fund umbrella rather than specified health dollars.
Rudduck replied, “I’m just telling you we’re losing 15 to 16 people a year here. And if that’s not a clear and present danger for use of health, welfare and safety funds, I don’t know what is. And if you say we want to use the interest from that, I think that’s minimizing what’s going on in this community.”
The judge added, “It’s frustrating. Because you guys have been sitting on that [hospital funds] for years, really. And this [opiate problem] has been going on for years. And I’m just saying let’s get going with this, OK? That’s what I’m suggesting.”
A Feb. 27 press release from Portman’s office stated CARA 2 builds on the original CARA by increasing the funding authorization levels to better coincide with the recent budget agreement. CARA 2 authorizes $1 billion nationally in dedicated resources to evidence-based prevention, enforcement, treatment, and recovery programs.
Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said she’s definitely open to forming a coalition and “helping in any way that I possibly can.” An attendee, Dana Dunn, suggested a new coalition may not have to be formed. He said there is an existing anti-opioid group called “H.E.L.P. Clinton County” and a commissioner could join it.
At the same county commissioners meeting, Clinton County Sheriff Ralph Fizer Jr., along with Rudduck and Clinton County Municipal Court Judge Mike Daugherty, recommended the county acquire a body scanner for the jail to detect drugs that are being smuggled into the facility in a person’s body cavities.
Other counties such as Fayette, Greene, Hamilton and Clermont have body scanners at their jails. Col. Brian Prickett of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office quoted a price from one manufacturer of $1,600 a month in a lease agreement.
The machine would increase safety both for jail employees and inmates, Prickett said.
And earlier this week, Barry Wulf with the not-for-profit Big Hearts Little Smiles updated commissioners on a handicap-accessible restroom project at the all-children playground near Fife Avenue. Thanks to a $100,000 grant, the facility is expected to go up this year.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.