Summit County, Ohio: Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge and Turning Point Program Presiding Judge Joy Malek Oldfield recently presented a session of the webinar series Trauma and the Opioid Crisis: Diverse Perspectives on an Epidemic.
Judge Oldfield, having served drug courts in the Akron Municipal Recovery Court (formerly the Akron Municipal Drug Court) and now with the Turning Point Program, has a great deal of knowledge about substance use disorders, treatment and recovery. Joined by Judge Stephen Goss of the Superior Courts of Georgia, Judge Oldfield presented Trauma in Specialty Court Settings for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Center for Trauma-Informed Care and Alternatives to Restraint and Seclusion (NCTIC) and GAINS Center. The session provided information on how treatment courts can provide a traumainformed approach to support the recovery of their participants. This session was part of a fivepart series which provided information about the opioid crisis, stories of personal struggles and challenges from people in recovery, and inspirational stories of healing, recovery and empathy.
“We know that people who have experienced trauma are at an elevated risk for substance use disorders. That’s why we see it often in the backgrounds of our Turning Point participants. Because trauma can affect how individuals engage in treatment, it’s important to use a traumainformed approach to maximize the outcome of intervention and contribute to healing and recovery,” Judge Oldfield explained.
Research shows that trauma is widespread. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health reported that 55% to 99% of women in substance use treatment reported a history of trauma. Another study of individuals participating in jail diversion programs across the country demonstrated that both men and women almost universally reported a history of significant traumatic experience prior to incarceration. And, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study found that high ACE scores were strongly correlated with emotional, psychological and physical health problems as adults.
Turning Point uses many tools to assist participants who have trauma in their backgrounds. “Tank,” the Turning Point therapy dog, provides a therapeutic boost to court participants. The Court also offers case management services, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) treatment, trauma screenings, comprehensive mental health evaluations and recommended treatment, recovery support and counseling offered by a variety of partner treatment providers, including Summa Health System’s Traumatic Stress Center, Oriana House, Summit Psychological Associates and Community Health Center.
“Summit County has a wealth of trauma-informed resources for our participants. This collaboration is critical to their success for long-term sobriety,” stated Judge Malek Oldfield. “And, frankly, everything we do has an impact. So in addition to relying on those partnerships, we also have to provide a safe and appropriate environment in Court, where we treat everyone with dignity and provide opportunities to engage in a positive setting.”
Judge Oldfield previously served on a SAMHSA and Bureau of Justice Assistance expert panel in January 2018 to develop guidance for implementing MAT for individuals with substance use disorders involved in the criminal justice system.
“I’m honored to participate in the dialogue on trauma- informed care,” Judge Oldfield concluded. “It’s a great opportunity to share our success and be a model for other courts.”