Court, Community Source of Hope before, during, after Drug Court Documentary
By Csaba Sukosd | September 4, 2019
On a dreary evening in northern Ohio, people gathered to discuss the dark cloud of the drug crisis that looms over the community. But in the midst of all that gray, a rainbow emerged as a beacon of light, much like those who convened to address the epidemic.
Inside the Medina City Schools Performing Arts Center, the dialogue directed toward substance use disorders was initiated by an Ohio Supreme Court documentary titled, "Second Chances: One Year in Ohio's Drug Courts." Medina County's program was one of three specialized dockets chronicled in the film.
Along with a public screening of the feature, a panel shared their experiences and efforts in battling addiction, either as public officials, as court employees, or personally. The panelists included Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, Ohio Senator Larry Obhof, the Medina County drug court staff, and program graduates.
"I just think it's great that there are so many people from the community here who care about this enough to be here, and who all want to help," Sen. Obhof said before a crowd of approximately 100 people.
It was the second consecutive week the film was presented to the public. Marion - which hosted the previous screening and panel discussion - has a municipal court specialized docket that also was featured in the documentary.
Among the 12 people on stage for the Medina panel, four are in recovery - three as drug court graduates and one as a participant on the verge of graduating. One of graduates was Nick Henry, who was prominently featured in the documentary for his candidness about struggling with sobriety. After staying clean throughout the program, and seemingly on the right path, he served as a reminder to others about the nature of the affliction and the battle he'll face for the rest of his life.
"It wasn't the next day, the next week, or the next month. It was a year-and-a-half after I had successfully completed drug court that I picked up again," Henry explained of his relapse in March after more than three years without drugs or alcohol.
After his setback, Henry credited the peer support system for getting his life back on the sober track. He specifically thanked Stefanie Robinson, the executive director of Hope Recovery Community Center - a nonprofit focused on providing resources and advocacy for individuals dealing with substance addiction. As a person in long-term recovery, she can speak to the impact of having continued communal support beyond the completion of a drug court program. A North Carolina Health Professionals Program report shows that people who stay in recovery for five years have an 85% chance of continuing in ongoing recovery for life.
"I think it's really important that the court systems, the health care systems, and the providers continue to connect people in the recovery community," said Robinson. "So that when they're beyond the system, they continue this journey of recovery, so they don't come back into the system."
Chief Justice O'Connor has championed the efforts of drug courts for years, not only as the best means of treatment and recovery, but also for societal safety and cost savings. According to a National Institute of Justice study, drug courts have shown lower recidivism rates and significantly lower costs when handling offenders compared to traditional criminal justice system processing, such as incarceration and probation.
"We're always going to have problems, but we're always going to strive for solutions to those problems," Chief Justice O'Connor said. "That's why we do what we do. That's why we're public servants."