Highland County drug court secures funding

Specialized docket to start with $94k in grant money

By David Wright - [email protected]



Nearly $100,000 in grant funds allocated to Highland County will provide the building blocks for a drug court in Hillsboro.

Judge Rocky Coss said this week that more than $94,000 of a $610,000 grant awarded to the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board will pay for expenses associated with a specialized drug docket in Highland County Common Pleas Court.

As previously reported, drug courts — specialized dockets that offer defendants charged with drug crimes a chance at cleaning up their record through intensive reporting requirements and treatment — are growing in popularity around the state due to high success rates and a shift in the understanding of addiction.

According to a press release from the ADAMH Board, the board was recently awarded $610,598 in State Opioid Response (SOR) funding for drug courts, probation departments and treatment providers in Highland, Fayette, Pike and Pickaway counties, as well as a residential treatment center in Ross County.

Coss said $52,000 of Highland County’s allotment will be given to the Highland County Probation Department for personnel to implement the grant. Those funds will be used to pay a case manager and treatment navigator, according to the judge.

Coss previously said the probation department will do much of the leg work for the drug court, which Coss hopes to establish in the next year or so.

The next largest amount, $23,000, will be allocated for transportation and “recovery support,” which can be paying for anything from license reinstatement fees to costs associated with new employment, the judge said.

Coss said $13,000 will be allocated for vocational training and services, which will be administered by Goodwill Industries, and another $5,000 will be used for medically assisted treatment such as Vivitrol injections, which block cravings and neutralize the effects of opioids and alcohol in the body for 28 days.

According to Coss, the drug court will partner primarily with the Highland County Probation Department to process and supervise candidates, and defendants will appear in court every two weeks over 18 to 24 months, depending on their needs.

Defendants must be evaluated for entry and sign an agreement with the court, according to the judge. They are subject to immediate drug tests, and Coss said if violations occur, whether through drug use or failure to report, their punishment — normally in the form of a brief jail stay — is doled out with “immediate certainty” and without a hearing or a lawyer present.

In the event of serious violations, defendants can at any time be restored to the regular docket and sent to prison if the judge deems it necessary.

Coss said the court will also partner with residential treatment centers like Massie House, a men’s residential facility near Buford, and the Lynn Goff Clinic in Greenfield, which provides residential treatment for women; as well as the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition and REACH for Tomorrow, a Greenfield-based nonprofit.

Coss said Ross County’s portion of the funding will fund a residential treatment center in Chillicothe boasting more than 50 beds for both substance abuse and mental health disorders.

“In so many of our cases, there are co-occurring disorders,” the judge said. “A large number of people who are addicted to controlled substances also have mental disorders.”

It is this approach to addiction — identifying the reasons behind individuals’ addiction and treating the root of the problem — that has shown the most success, many local experts have said.

And while Coss has a reputation as a judge who does not hesitate to hand down lengthy prison sentences, he has said he also understands that incarceration does not always heal addiction.

Coss argued that as a judge, he seeks to “hold people accountable,” and that means different things for different defendants.

For drug traffickers who seek only to make money by exploiting addiction, Coss has little mercy. But for the person who sells drugs just to get their next “fix,” a prison sentence could do more harm than good, the judge said.

It is these types of defendants that Coss sees as good candidates for a drug docket, he said — so long as they are willing to get help.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.

Specialized docket to start with $94k in grant money

By David Wright

[email protected]