KENTON — “It has been both a very trying and rewarding year since we met this time last year,” Hardin County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Steven Christopher said. “Our juvenile court has run into some budgetary problems. As a result, we’ve had to have some staff cuts and some program cuts. On the good side, we’ve had a new program that we’re working on that will not cost us much money, and that’s the mentoring program.”
Judge Christopher sponsored a stakeholder meeting on Monday afternoon at the Hardin County sheriffs’ office, to spread the word about their progress in reclaiming futures for Hardin County at-risk teens involved with the Lifeworks community school.
Considered the “best practice model” teen drug court, Reclaiming Futures – Hardin County is the implementation of a cutting edge program, which the latest national research offers. The Hardin Community school, a state chartered public school, has proven to be effective as Ohio’s first “recovery high school”, so much so that Christopher indicates that what is working in Hardin County is being looked at as a model nationwide.
Christopher spoke of their participation in the past year in a statewide pilot program involving seven counties and 10 courts to specifically study medically assisted treatment as it pertains to opiates.
“In Hardin County, I have been very much using Vivitrol, which is not an opiate, and we’ve, found it to be extremely successful,” he said. “Of the people that we’ve had use the Vivitrol, purely heroin addicts, we’ve had zero relapses. Of the people I have in my family treatment court, 69 percent have problems, felony probation or felony cases pending. Since they’ve come into my court, of those 69 percent — zero recidivism. None have committed another crime. I am a huge proponent at this point and I’ll tell you, I was skeptical at the beginning of Vivitrol and medically assisted treatment.”
Several speakers involved with the program who shared their experiences were, Chris DiBiasio (Community Fellow) with Ohio Northern University, Pat Knippen, supervisor with Hardin County Job and Family Services and John Hohn with Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.
Sociologist Dr. Keith Durkin (Ohio Northern University) presented compelling information on the makeup of at risk youth. All the youth who enter the program were given the Global Appraisal for Individual Needs (GAIN), to determine a large number of social, psychological and behavioral indicators. An analysis of the GAIN data provided information on substance abuse, criminal offending; psychological diagnoses, family and residential risk factors and education status. According to findings in Durkin’s research, teens most at risk have mental health issues, family dysfunction, are one or more grades behind in school and need some kind of mentorship program to foster their recovery.
Chris DiBiasio proposed more involvement and partnering of faculty, staff and students at ONU while detailing past participation, including hosting Lifeworks students on campus, one-on-one interaction between Lifeworks students and 42 teacher education students in the past two years and a music workshop program this year.
Other testimonials were heard from Knippen, Hohn, Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart, Lifeworks mentor, Jolene Bailey with Quest Bank, Randy Muck, Senior Advisor of Advocates for Youth and Family Behavioral Health and Jeff Price, superintendent of Ohio Hi-Point.