Newton District Court Debuts New Drug Court to Help Those Battling Addiction
The Newton District Court is launching its first Drug Court, a session that will address both drug and alcohol issues among probationers in the community.
This specialized court, one of 19 Drug Courts in the state, is designed to help individuals dealing with addiction through intensive probation supervision, the resources of community treatment providers, and an approach that involves rewards—from positive affirmation to reduced probation— and sanctions—admonishment to increased probation supervision or incarceration. First Justice Dyanne Klein leads these sessions with a 10-member Drug Court team comprised of Probation, a Clerk Magistrate, attorneys, local law enforcement, and community treatment providers.
The goal of the court, according to Judge Klein is to enhance public safety by reducing repeat criminal behavior and providing offenders with the resources they need to battle addiction.
According to Judge Klein, “The Drug/OUI Court will better serve our higher-risk probationers by providing them with more intensive substance abuse services that will hopefully enable them to take responsibility for their actions and become a productive member of their community.”
Assistant Chief Probation Officer Richard Guzzi noted, “The Newton District Court sees a lot of alcohol, cocaine, and prescription medication addictions among its caseload, warranting the additional services that will be provided by the new Drug/OUI Court.”
The Drug Court promotes interaction between the judge and each Drug Court participant, and provides the Court with the opportunity to monitor and evaluate the success of the offender and the impact the services have on the probationer and on our community partnerships.
Recently, during the court’s first session, Judge Klein reviewed the cases of five Drug/OUI candidates. Weekly sessions will be held every Tuesday afternoon with the next session scheduled for March 19. Newton District’s Drug Court is managed by a team of professionals which includes Judge Klein, Assistant Chief Guzzi, Probation Officer Rhonda Smith, who is the facilitator of the Court session, Associate Probation Officer Donna Moore, First Assistant Clerk Catherine Coughlin, Assistant District Attorney Alexander Watson, Defense Attorneys Michael Coyle and Nancy Wintersteen, Newton Police Sgt. H. Brian Henderson, and Officer Michelle Bellevue.
This specialized court is one of several innovative programs introduced by Judge Klein, who established in 2010 a Citizen’s Academy that provided the community with a 10-week course about all facets of the Trial Court. Probation Officer Rhonda Smith also facilitated that program.
The Drug/OUI Court is based on a national model, developed by the National Drug Court. A candidate for Newton District’s Drug/OUI Court must participate in detoxification, clinical assessment, and receive a referral for treatment during a 45-day period before entering the four-phase treatment program. The stages include intensive treatment—drug and alcohol testing and counseling; a focus on life skills—education and employment skills; and completion of a drug, alcohol and conviction free followed by graduation. During weekly sessions, offenders are awarded for their progress or given sanctions when they do not comply. Participants are expected to complete the program within 15 – 24 months.
The Newton Drug Court is one of the first Drug Courts to incorporate a newly implemented behavior and risk assessment tool for probationers, the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS).
Probation Officers in the District, Juvenile, and Superior courts across the state use ORAS to determine the appropriate level of supervision needed for offenders. The five levels, based on an offender’s rehabilitative needs and risk to the community, are very high, high, moderate, low/moderate, or low. This new tool assesses potential barriers to substance abuse treatment and assists in efficient allocation of supervision and treatment resources. The ORAS tool focuses on why the crime was committed. It will assist the Court in getting to know and understand the clients. It also helps the clients identify those aspects of their life that they want to work on.
“The Court is hopeful that if it can determine why offenders are committing crimes, it can refer probationers to the appropriate treatment program, and help reduce the recidivism rate,” said Assistant Chief Probation Officer Guzzi.