WILMINGTON — Clinton County will be the first place in Ohio to take part in a pilot grant program that aims at a fundamental shift in the way certain offenders with drug addictions are dealt with.
The county was awarded a $199,000 Targeting Community Alternatives to Prison (T-CAP) grant from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction (DRC), with county commissioners on Wednesday executing the grant agreement.
The new state grant, as previously reported, is intended to assist communities in managing the lowest level of felony offenders through more effective and less costly alternatives to prison. Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck plans to use the T-CAP funds in ways that help people recover from drug addiction.
Ohio DRC Director Gary C. Mohr attended the commissioners session held in Rudduck’s courtroom where they signed the grant agreement, making Clinton County the DRC’s first partner in the pilot program that Mohr hopes is extended throughout the state.
Mohr said he believes local communities can handle non-violent, lowest-level felony offenders — who, he added, are often addicted — better than DRC’s state prisons can. Research shows as much, said Mohr.
According to Rudduck, brain science has proven that drug addiction is a health issue, and “not so much a moral failure.” That’s because it is extremely difficult to get off the addictive drugs.
“For too long we’ve treated these folks as hard-core criminals; we’ve treated them as felons,” said the judge. He added that the “default position by a lot of courts unfortunately” has been to send drug abusers away to state prisons.
“Gary [Mohr] and I both believe that the individuals afflicted in that manner, [that] the best approach is to deal with it locally,” Rudduck said.
To those who are addicted to a drug, taking the drug becomes a necessity for them, said Rudduck, “and to break that cycle we need a lot of resources.”
There are not a lot of recovery programs in Clinton County, the judge said. Although sober living houses were started in the villages of Cuba and Blanchester, the city of Wilmington needs one, too, he said.
And that’s just part of it, said Rudduck.
Also needed here, he said, are many different types of resources in terms of transitional living and treatment programs while people are in the county jail.
The judge previously said he hopes some of the T-CAP money coming here can be leveraged to develop transitional programs.
Mohr reported that in addition to the funding, there are commitments by the state department of mental health and addictive services, as well as the state Job & Family Services agency, to help Clinton County with treatment and employment services for the designated offenders and “to take a look at how we can continue to work together to make this work.”
At one juncture, Mohr referred to “these awful drugs.”
Clinton County Sheriff Ralph Fizer Jr. was at the meeting Wednesday. He said he supports the program, adding “what we have been doing for several years isn’t working.”
Clinton County Commissioner Kerry Steed said the pilot program offers an additional tool in the arsenal against the drug problem.
Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley said the bottom line is to make streets safer and also help those who sometimes can’t help themselves.
Clinton County Commissioner President Mike Curry said he believes the new option will help Clinton County citizens.
The DRC media release states the program will help reduce Ohio’s growing prison population and prison density, while also directing resources toward local community alternatives for non-violent, lowest-level felony offenders.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.