FAIRBORN – The Fairborn Municipal Court received initial certification for a program that would implement a holistic approach for those facing recovery.
“We’re doing the holistic thing,” Judge Beth Root of the Fairborn Municipal Court said. “It’s not just treatment – it’s getting them stable housing, getting them in a sober community with sober family and friends – sometimes it may be reestablishing ties with family, and any school or job [goals they may have]. It’s the big picture.”
The Fairborn Municipal Vivitrol Drug Court program aims to teach individuals how to live a drug and alcohol-free life. Those accepted are expected to be able to do so within two years of entering the program. It is broken into four phases, and individuals will begin Vivitrol treatment within the first phase, and possibly discontinuing the drug during or after the fourth phase, depending on the individual. In the first phase, participants are screened a minimum of two times per week, visit with the probation officer at least once per week and attend status hearing at the courts twice per month. Phase one lasts 12 weeks, and in order for participants to move on to stage two they must pass the screens for eight consecutive weeks, attend all required appointments and be compliant with court and community control/probation orders.
Phase two highlights drug and mental health counseling by targeting the issues that caused them to begin using drugs in the first place and what complications it has caused them since. Participants will still be screened a minimum of two times per week, attend weekly probation appointments as well as status hearings at the court two times per month. They will additionally attend chemical dependency and mental health counseling per their individual treatment plan. Participants will learn to identify relapse triggers and must begin to develop healthy coping mechanisms. In order to move on to the next stage, participants must have clean drug screens for 12 consecutive weeks, continue following orders and attending meetings.
The third phase aims at action, as participants will have less appointments to attend and will begin applying what they have learned through the program in their day-to-day functions. It lasts 12 weeks, and participants are pushed to start working toward their goals, such as finding employment or enrolling in school, which will vary on a case-by-case basis. Participants must undergo one screen per week, one probation appointment every other week depending on their progress as well as mental health and chemical dependency counseling according to their individual plans. Participants will attend court hearings once per month. In order to start the final phase, participants must have clean drug screens for 12 consecutive weeks, be compliant with all court orders and probation rules and attend all appointments.
The fourth and final phase focuses on continuation, as participants will have even fewer appointments to attend and will keep working toward their goals. They will be screened twice per month, attend probation appointments every three to four weeks, see the judge once per month and have chemical dependency counseling according to their individualized treatment plans. In order to begin aftercare, they must have clean drug screens for the remaining five months, complete a relapse prevention plan, attend all required appointments and continue to follow court orders and probation rules.
The program then monitors participants for six months following completion, by meeting with the probation officer on a monthly basis and choosing whether or not to continue counseling and court status hearings.
“It’s a very intensive program,” Probation Officer Lynzy Campbell said. “It’s going to take a lot of our time with individuals independently. They’re getting one-on-one time with all of us.”
It will receive its final certification after an individual from the supreme court specialized docket division observes the program in action Nov. 24 through a treatment team meeting and court hearing. The court has applied for a grant that would allow another probation officer to be hired for the program.
“The limitation is truthfully on how much we can do, because we are so busy,” Root said. “That’s the problem – we’re looking at the first year maximum being 20, but Lynzy (Campbell) and I have already said ‘how do you tell someone no who wants help?’ We’re saying 20, but we don’t know. It’s hard to say no to that person because you don’t have the time. I’m not sure how you could do that.”
In order to be considered, individuals would be referred and would be assessed by the judge, defense counsel, prosecutor and probation officer. They must also agree to take Vivitrol. If they meet the requirements for admission, they will meet again with the probation officer for a risk assessment, then a drug and alcohol and mental health assessment. At that point, the treatment team would review the individual’s assessments results and would discuss if the individual would be a good candidate for the program.
“The big issue is that they have to want the program,” Root said. “They have to be willing to commit to the program because it takes a lot of time and effort from everyone.”
The program is based on Hocking County Municipal Vivitrol Drug Court, and came to be after Root and other individuals from neighboring agencies attended a docket in April 2014. Judge Frederick Moses said Vivitrol differs from Suboxone, as it targets the brain in another fashion. While soboxone is an agonist, meaning it binds to the receptors in the brain to prevent withdrawals, Vivotrol is an antagonist, meaning it blocks receptors in the brain from being able to feel the effects of opiates.
“Understand the goal of the program … The theory underlying our program is you get their brain clean, off the opiates, treat their underlying issues … and get them a year clean and doing well,” Moses said. “What we’re seeing when they get out is that they’re much more effective in the treatment process.”
Dr. Brad Lander, a psychologist and clinical director at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center recently presented “Understanding Addiction: Squirrel Logic,” in which he explained how drugs impact the brain. He said the brain is a chemical, and added that once individuals start to change that chemistry by using drugs, the behavior will follow.
“A squirrel cannot possibly understand the concept of nutrition. It can’t understand the need to eat. So what makes the animal eat? It’s really simple. A baby squirrel … it gets milk, the reward pathway lights up. It’s not drinking the milk because it understands that it builds strong bodies 12 ways. It’s drinking the milk for one reason and one reason only – it feels good,” Lander said.
“Anything that stimulates this part of the brain is going to be automatically assumed to be necessary. And it’s going to have an automatic built-in drive to repeat the behavior. You have to have this … It brings us to the basic principle of animal motivation, which is if it feels good it must be good for me and it’s something that has to be repeated. It’s not logical and it’s not rational, it just is. Stimulation of this part of the brain is something that sets up and automatic drive to repeat it.”