Opioid/heroin epidemic is a priority for the judge
When Pat DeWine was growing up as a kid he always thought of heroin as a really scary drug. Today, DeWine works as a judge in the First District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati where he makes decisions about public safety and maintaining safe communities.
At the forefront of that work, DeWine said, is the opioid/heroin addiction epidemic. Now he said he is trying to learn as much as he can about the very drug he thought of as scary as a kid.
DeWine recently went to visit Judge Frederick T. Moses in Hocking County. Moses is currently working with a pilot program for a Vivitrol drug court that is partially funded by the Ohio Supreme Court. Vivitrol is a pharmaceutical drug that blocks the effects of opioids/heroin on a person and will help to subside cravings for the drug.
“He has a great program where he brings these people into the program every week. He calls them up so he spends individual time with them, ‘How are you doing? How’s your job situation? What’s going on with your marriage?’ or whatever because all these people have other stressors in their life that they need to deal with,” DeWine said.
DeWine said Judge Moses engages with the people about their therapy and treatment as they are going through the Vivitrol drug court.
“They’re all taking drug tests, so if there is a dirty urine or something then he talks about that, threatens to send them to prison, sometimes sends them. It’s kind of a carrot and stick thing but it seems to be really successful,” said DeWine.
DeWine said he spent some time speaking with the people who are involved with Moses’s Vivitrol drug court.
“He let me talk to them, and most of them were really, really positive. They said they had tried Suboxone or Methodone and kind of felt like that was a racket, and that didn’t really solve their problems. I’m not saying that’s right but that’s kind of their impression, and they were doing much better with the Vivitrol,” DeWine said.
DeWine said most people who are on heroin start out on prescription drugs and as a judge he has worked with people struggling with addiction in Cincinnati.
In one case, DeWine said, “A working-class guy who fell, got hurt, hurt his back, he started taking pain pills, then he’s addicted to them so he’s buying them off the street. That’s too expensive, heroin is cheaper. Then all of a sudden he’s in front of me for armed robbery or burglary or something where he could go away for a long time which, you know, he never would have done.”
In another case, DeWine saw a young man who was hooked on heroin and committed a number of burglaries where he was breaking into people’s houses and stealing TVs.
“I tried to give him a chance on probation and treatment,” said DeWine. He said the young man’s mother was supportive but after two or three times, he failed.
“So ultimately I sent him to prison, which you know, you always hate to do that. This was several years ago, but not too long ago his mother came up to me and said, ‘You know, sending him to prison, you saved his life.’ That was the best. He needed that at that point and he got out of prison—it wasn’t very long, I think it was nine months or something—and he understood that he just couldn’t do it in Cincinnati.”
The young man eventually left Cincinnati to get away from “the same friends that he was doing heroin with,” said DeWine, and relocated to Michigan. “Now he’s got his kid back, so she (his mom) said that was what he needed. As judges, when you make these decisions, you never know if it’s right or wrong, but in that case it seemed to be one that worked out.”
DeWine is running this election for Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. He said he thinks the Ohio Supreme Court can help to change the opioid/heroin epidemic across the state.
“There’s a number of programs in the state and I think the role of the Ohio Supreme Court, what they could do, is in measuring what works and what is successful, so that we can have models that we can use throughout the state. I think what you’ll see as you go around the state is that there’s a lot of different drug courts. Some of them, there’s a lot of amazing work, some of them work better than others. We probably don’t do a very good job though of measuring what’s actually working and what’s not working and saying, these are the best practices we want to try and use in Ohio courts. That’s definitely one of my priorities,” DeWine said.