Three avoid prison, enrolled in drug court


Two men and one woman — who were facing a total of seven years prison time — were instead placed into the Highland County Common Pleas Drug Court program Wednesday.

Judge Rocky Coss spoke on the details and goals of the new post-conviction or intervention in lieu of conviction drug docket at a meeting of the Hillsboro Rotary Club Tuesday.

Michael Holland, 62, Hillsboro, James Evans, 36, Hillsboro and Sidney Merrick, 24, Hillsboro, all entered guilty pleas on July 5 to drug charges in Coss’ courtroom.

Holland and Evans were each facing up to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to a theft of drugs charge, while Merrick was looking at 4 years imprisonment on heroin possession and tampering with evidence charges.

According to court documents, Tonya Sturgill, drug court coordinator with the Highland County probation department, met with and completed drug court screening for the trio, in which all three indicated they wanted to participate in what is called the New Way to Recovery Drug Court Docket.

During Coss’ presentation to the Hillsboro Rotary Club, he spelled out the main protocols of the drug court program:

• Eligibility is limited to low-level offenders who reside in Highland County or adjoining counties, with six listed offenses that will exclude participation.

• The drug court docket community control is tougher than regular community control, with supervision and drug testing standards that must be maintained.

• Drug court is for high-risk offenders under the Ohio Risk Assessment System.

• The program is three-phase in scope, with each having specific goals to be met in order to be promoted.

• Drug testing frequency for Phase 1 is two to four times weekly; Phase 2 and 3 are both twice monthly.

• Drug testing is random and prescriptions are monitored.

According to documents from the probation department, non-compliance consists of a six-step sanction process, ranging from community service to increased drug testing and reporting, through jail time and possible termination from the program, which could ultimately result in incarceration.

Probation department documentation stated that Holland is currently enrolled in residential treatment with FRS-Massie House and is expected to complete the program in late Sept.

Evans is enrolled in the same FRS-Massie House program, and is on track to complete the program in late Aug.

Merrick is currently enrolled in intensive outpatient counseling with FRS and is receiving once monthly Vivitrol.

Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571

Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss addresses the meeting of the Hillsboro Rotary Club Tuesday. County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss addresses the meeting of the Hillsboro Rotary Club Tuesday.
Program aimed at recovery, not incarceration

By Tim Colliver

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