- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
A Clark County Municipal Court program that keeps addicts on probation from using opioids in the midst of a drug epidemic that’s seen 600 overdoses here this year could be affected by a possible cut in state grant money.
However local agencies might be able to cover the program’s funding gap to keep it afloat.
The program provides Vivitrol — a drug that blocks opioids from interacting with the receptors in the brain and eliminates the experience of feeling high — to ex-offenders on probation through McKinley Hall treatment center.
“It would be a real step backwards at a time when we’re starting to make some in-roads with the demand side of the opioid problem,” Nevius said. “We’re finally seeing progress. It would slow everything down … We’re going to find a way to make it work because it is making a difference.”
As the Ohio legislature continues to debate the upcoming biennial budget, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections decided all Community Correction Act grant applications would be listed at 80 percent of their fiscal year 2017 total, the department’s Deputy Communications Chief Grant Doepel said.
That will allow the grants to be processed and reduce any delays in providing money to probation departments, despite the budget allocation being uncertain at this time, he said.
“Once the budget is passed, we will communicate any changes to the funding level of the grants,” Doepel wrote in an e-mail to the Springfield News-Sun on Friday.
The Clark County program could see a loss of about $38,000, Municipal Court Director of Probation Marcie Reynolds said. About $20,000 of that money goes to Vivitrol shots. The rest is spent on case management, which she said would slow cases down if it were to be cut.
Clark County doesn’t have specialty courts such as a drug court, but Nevius said the municipal court uses many of the techniques those offer. Last year the municipal court received a grant to offer Vivitrol shots to addicts who were willing to commit to the program.
The 12-month program started in February 2016 and has about a 68 percent success rate, Reynolds said.
“Our numbers are better than I thought they’d be,” Nevius said.
At the end of April, four people had successfully completed the program through the court system, she said. About 33 people are currently in the program.
“Every month it grows,” she said.
Each shot is about $1,100, Reynolds said, but many of them are covered by Medicaid. The probation department has already purchased enough shots to likely last through 2018.
“Right now, it’s not a huge concern of running out of those shots, but we want to have the money there to purchase them when it is time,” Reynolds said.
As part of the grant, the court hired another probation officer who interviews inmates to see who would be appropriate for the program and monitor them as part of their duties. No personnel will be affected as part of the reduction in grant money, Nevius said.
The program currently has a waiting list of about 12 people. It takes a while to assess the referrals for the program, Nevius said, because it’s so costly.
“Not everybody is a good candidate,” Nevius said. “Some of them will just say anything to get into the program, while others just want to do their time. We can’t get to every addict.”
The treatment drug is effective, Nevius said, especially if participants are monitored and controlled.
“We know they’re getting it regularly and staying on track,” he said. “It’s not the complete answer, but it’s a piece of the puzzle.”
The success can be contagious at the jail, Nevius said, as inmates see it working and want to try it.
“We’re hoping it has that kind of effect,” Nevius said.
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Several local agencies, including the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office and the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties, expressed interest in extending funding for the program if state money is cut.
“We need to continue to work together to do what we can do to make sure these people don’t re-offend and end up in jail,” Reynolds said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Springfield resident Jamie Keaton, 28, has received Vivitrol shots for the past five months as part of the program. She had been using drugs since she was 12, she said, and has been revived with Narcan twice.
“I’ve been on the streets pretty much my whole life,” Keaton said. “You get tired. I love recovery right now. I love going to meetings and I have a lot of good, sober people in my life.”
It’s the second time she’s used Vivitrol because the first time she wasn’t ready, she said.
“I didn’t do my part,” Keaton said.
Keaton returned from treatment about three months ago and has gotten a job and her three children back in her life.
“They weren’t in my life and they weren’t really around me when I was like that,” Keaton said. “To be able to sit back and enjoy them and watch them play, I haven’t been able to do that in a long time.”
The Vivitrol helps with the mental aspect and cravings of addiction, Keaton said, but you have to be in the right environment. Even if an addict isn’t ready, it may give that person time to become ready to change without taking another substance such as suboxone, Keaton said.
“If you really want (to recover), you have to reach out there and get it,” she said. “(Vivitrol) is really what people need right now.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR