Administrative Judge Amy Corrigall Jones of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas is pleased to announce the court’s collaboration with Greenleaf Family Center to provide assessments for low-risk offenders that want to participate in Intervention in Lieu of Conviction.
The goal of IILC is to divert low-risk offenders to substance abuse and mental health treatment programs when there is reason to believe the offender’s drug or alcohol use or mental health disorder contributed to his or her criminal behavior. Pretrial officers complete an investigation after a defendant is booked into Summit County Jail. As part of that investigation, officers complete a risk assessment that consists of reviewing the offender’s criminal history, identifying any current involvement in the criminal justice system and mental health or substance abuse issues. If the pretrial assessment reveals drug and/or alcohol use as a contributing factor in a low-risk offender’s criminal activity, the offender is referred to complete an IILC assessment that provides a more comprehensive evaluation of the offender’s history of substance use and mental health. These assessments determine whether or not an offender is eligible for IILC.
If the court grants the order of intervention in lieu of conviction, the offender is ordered to abstain from drugs and alcohol, receive treatment and recovery services, submit to random drug testing and comply with other terms and conditions, similar to community control sanctions, for one year. If the offender successfully complies with these conditions, he or she will have their charges dismissed.
The opiate epidemic’s impact on Summit County Common Pleas Court and lack of associated funding contributed to the court’s inability to keep up with the increasing volume of referrals to the IILC program. In 2016, 717 IILC assessments were completed. This year, the number of assessments is on pace to easily surpass last year’s totals and are expected to increase in 2018 as well.
As such, the growing demand has created delays in scheduling timely assessments, which then delays offenders receiving needed treatment. Another problem is offenders often detox while they are detained in jail. Corrigall Jones explained, “A criminal event can often be the motivation for an individual to seek treatment. If they don’t get the treatment soon after their release, odds are most are going to use again. Using opiates after a period of sobriety places the individual at a greater risk of overdose.”
“The court recognized this issue, which can be the difference between life and death for an individual struggling with addiction. It is also an issue of community safety as those struggling with opiate addiction often resort to crime to support their habit. We had to address this increasing demand on court resources as a result of the opiate epidemic and working with health providers was the best option to address this need,” said Corrigall Jones.
In October, the court received Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison funding and allocated a portion of the funding to cover the costs of Greenleaf performing the assessments.
Greenleaf President/CEO Dawn Glenny and John Balash III, Director of Behavioral Health Services agreed that this is a great opportunity.
“The opiate epidemic has reached every corner of Ohio. This epidemic necessitates collaborations and we are hopeful that our work in providing these IILC assessments in a timely manner will save lives in the short and long term,” stated Glenny.
The partnership was solidified on November 7. Greenleaf staff completed the first assessment November 15. Since then, Greenleaf has completed 108 assessments and counting, including back-logged assessments, as well as new assessments. A full-time therapist located at the court and staff who complete assessments at the jail are averaging six assessments per day, whereas the IILC unit averaged two to three assessments per day and was scheduling them two to three months after release.
Balash explained that between the IILC unit staff completing previously scheduled assessments and Greenleaf staff doubling capacity, the combined effort has made significant headway in catching up with assessments and reducing future delays. Balash said new assessments are being completed and sent back to the courts within two weeks, averaging a 7-10 day turnaround. Currently, Greenleaf has assessments booked through the rest of the month.
In addition to reducing delays, the collaboration has improved the court’s ability to hold offenders accountable. Bailiffs from each court are able to schedule assessments while the offender is in court. Before Greenleaf’s involvement, offenders would leave court and then schedule later, which may or may not have happened promptly.
Often, the first step to recovery is connecting individuals struggling with addiction to treatment providers. Glenny noted that while Greenleaf does provide substance abuse counseling, they don’t offer residential or medically assisted treatment. As such, the agency allows for the offender’s probation officer and the courts to initiate a treatment plan with any appropriate treatment provider in the community but will accept the offenders as clients. They also will offer offenders lists of other community resources.
Overall, the hope is these efforts will provide early intervention to address the opiate epidemic.
“Although it’s too early to determine the impact the partnership has had on people struggling with addiction, a majority of which would likely never have been involved in the criminal justice system otherwise, the court is hopeful prompt assessments will be an offenders first step to successful recovery,” concluded Corrigall Jones.