LIMA — While judges involved in drug treatment courts conducted in Lima Municipal Courts are hard-pressed to put an exact figure on the success rate of those programs, all agree that if one life is turned in a positive direction then all their combined efforts have been rewarded.
Members of the Lima Rotary Club on Monday heard from Municipal Court Judges David Rodabaugh and Tammie Hursh and Magistrate John Payne about the drug court program that was started in 2015 and the recently added veterans court which addresses similar needs. The specialized courts, which provide an alternative sentencing option for judges, are designed to help people convicted of crimes rooted in addiction find sobriety and become a functioning part of the community.
Rodabaugh said participation in the specialized courts is voluntary and difficult.
“We don’t choose everyone; they all have to meet certain standards,” he said. “The purpose is to try to get these people to change their behavior. And it’s hard. But if it doesn’t get uncomfortable there will be no behavioral change.”
The drug court in Lima Municipal Court was started by Hursh in 2015 and was one of the first of its kind in Ohio.
In 2021 the program had 65 individual participants “and we celebrated nine successful graduates,” Rodabaugh said. “The program takes about a year and a half to complete, and during that time participants have to accomplish certain goals. And they basically have to prove to us that they are free of the addictions that brought them to us,” Rodabaugh said.
While success is difficult to measure, “if we get one person to stay sober and/or drug free, then we’ve accomplished something,” the judge noted.
“We measure our success in graduates,” Hursh said, “and we’re probably at a 70% graduation rate. We rarely see (drug court participants) back in court.”
Hursh said a federal grant was awarded to the court last year that basically allowed judges to double the number of participants.
Goia Coleman is a probation officer and program coordinator for the drug court. She also authored the three-year federal grant that will allow the courts to serve more local residents.
“Our program is not for everybody, but we instill the structure and accountability that these participants need,” Coleman said.
Rodabaugh said many of the drug court participants have become addicted to painkillers and have developed addictions to heroin, morphine or fentanyl.
“Over the last two years there has been 55 pounds of fentanyl seized in Lima,” the judge said. “That’s enough to give every single resident of the city a lethal dose. It’s a problem in our county that we need to address.”
The National Drug Court Resource Center reports there are over 3,800 drug court programs operating within the United States.
“Since their inception in 1989, drug courts programs have expanded from serving just adults, to include juvenile drug treatment courts, DUI/DWI courts, family treatment courts, mental health courts, veterans treatment courts, tribal healing to wellness courts, and others,” according to the center’s website.