This article has been updated to reflect that not all participants in the Hillsboro Municial Court’s specialized treatment program are given Vivitrol. Some of those who have been enrolled in or completed the program were not given Vivitrol, and instead were sent to residential treatment facilities. This story has been edited from its original content to clarify that fact.
More than 30 people gathered in Hillsboro Municipal Court on Monday to congratulate nine men on their completion of a specialized drug treatment program available through the court.
Funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the program offers residential and outpatient treatment, depending on the participants’ needs, offers some participants Vivitrol, an injectable drug that blocks cravings and neutralizes the effects of opiates and alcohol in the body for 28 days.
Participants in the program who require Vivitrol receive their first injection while incarcerated, and when released, are either sent to residential treatment facilities or enrolled in outpatient programs while they report to probation.
At the event on Monday, Tonya Sturgill said she thought she might cry.
Sturgill, who works as the treatment coordinator at the Highland County Probation Department, organized the program.
According to her, an estimated 50 to 60 percent of those who participate complete the program successfully.
“You guys have all done amazing things,” Sturgill said to the nine men who finished the program on Monday. “I wish you the best of luck in the future.”
Hillsboro Municipal Court Judge David McKenna invited the men to sit in the jury box, which he noted is also where prisoners sit during court hearings, adding that each man had at one point sat in the same seats as a prisoner.
The judge said he hoped Monday would be the last time he would see them in the courtroom.
“This is the last time, and let’s make it the last time,” he said. “We’re not like Walmart. We don’t want more business.”
McKenna remarked that a number of the men had a lengthy history with the court, saying of one in particular, “We’ve been butting heads for a long time now.”
Whatever their story, the judge said, each had fought to get to where they were on Monday.
“These folks… have gone through a lot of hard times in the past year,” the judge said, adding that it was the men’s resolve to get clean that made the difference in their fight against drug abuse.
“The Vivitrol was just a crutch to get you where you needed to be,” he said.
McKenna gave each man a wristwatch as a reminder that they are no longer running out of time due to drug abuse.
“This really is the first day of the rest of your lives,” the judge said. “You’ve got a future in front of you.”
Highland County Jail Supervisor Lt. Keith Brown joked to the men in the jury box that he would “leave the light on for you,” at the jail, but added that he hopes they don’t cross paths again — at least, not in the jail.
“I’ll see you on the fishing bank sometime,” Brown said.
Highland County Probation Department Director Jeremy Ratcliffe, who secured the grant in 2015, said he pursued funding for the program because he had seen too much of the devastating effects of the opioid crisis here.
“I got sick and tired of seeing the same names come across my desk,” he said, “tired of seeing the obituaries in the paper.”
Ratcliffe congratulated the men on their completion of the program.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.