Lawrence County drug court is certified
IRONTON — A drug court started earlier this year in Lawrence County has been certified by the Ohio Supreme Court, said Common Pleas Judge Andy Ballard.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Ballard said of the certification last week of the drug court he started April 19 in Ironton.
The drug court includes community members and local treatment providers, Ballard said. The drug court meets on the first and third Thursday of the month. There currently are 10 people seeking guidance from the drug court and one more application is pending, he said.
“The goal here is accountability,” Ballard said. “Treatment is a big part of the program. They also have to have a GED and get a job to graduate from the drug court, he said.
“We’re trying to rebuild families and thereby rebuild the community,” Ballard said. “Mental health is a big component of this. Nine of the 10 participants have untreated or undiagnosed mental health disorders.
“We have a lot of people self-medicating,” Ballard said. Representatives of NECCO, Mended Reeds and the Ironton Lawrence County Area Community Action Organization are working with the drug court, he said.
Ballard does not support Issue 1 on the ballot this fall. Ohio Issue 1 – also known as the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment – would change the state’s constitution to reduce drug penalties and send fewer people to prison.
“If Issue 1 passes, court-ordered treatment will lose its effectiveness and possession of 10,000 lethal doses of fentanyl becomes a misdemeanor,” he said.
“Most people with addiction self medicate,” said Natalie Adams, a mental health liaison with the drug court. She works with the community action organization.
If mental health issues are addressed, cases can be resolved, Adams said. “Counseling and proper medication are the key,” she said. “This is not an overnight fix. They’ll be in treatment a long time after their drug court is over.”
Josh Whaley, the drug court case manager, said a representative of the Ohio Supreme Court reviewed the Lawrence County program earlier this year and gave final approval last week to the specialized court.
“We’re off to a good start,” Whaley said. There will be a review of the drug court in a year and changes, if needed, can be made, he said.