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Huron County launches program to help heroin and opiate abusers

By Norwalk Reflector Staff • Feb 14, 2016 at 8:00 PM

Starting Monday, Huron County will be home to early-intervention, substance abuse counseling focused on defendants who are abusing heroin and opiates.

“The Huron County Common Pleas Court and the Norwalk Municipal Court are pleased to announce that they have been awarded a grant to provide substance abuse counseling specifically targeting heroin and opiate abuse. The grant is part of a regional program entitled ’NOBARS,’ which helps provide services to courts to deal with the increasing demands on their probation departments as the state tries to reduce its over populated prison system,” common pleas court Judge Jim Conway said in a prepared statement.

“The courts intend to utilize the services in their traditional probation settings and in a new program designed to provide early intervention for offenders who wish to seek immediate help through the common pleas court,” he added.

Conway is working with Huron County Prosecutor Daivia Kasper to provide the opportunity for first-time felony offenders to participate in the court’s intervention in lieu of conviction program. Defendants who are granted intervention enter guilty pleas to their charges, are placed on probation, but the judge won’t impose a conviction unless the defendant violates his or her probation. They also must successfully complete a certified substance abuse program.

“The court anticipates that this early intervention program will provide treatment to offenders much sooner in most cases,” Conway said.

“Offenders in many cases will be agreeing to forgo laboratory testing of drugs, which would typically delay cases for weeks or months. Also, these cases would proceed by (a) bill of information, negating the need to have the grand jury hear the case before it proceeds to common pleas court. By getting offenders into treatment earlier in the process the court hopes to increase the effectiveness of treatment and reduce the rate of recidivism,” the judge added.

In a bill of information, defendants plead guilty directly to a charge and agree to waive the right to have their case presented to a grand jury for a possible indictment. Prosecutors traditionally use a bill of information as part of a plea deal.

“In addition to traditional counseling sessions, the grant makes it possible for the courts to implement medically-assisted treatment programs using the opiate-blocking medication Vivitrol. With support from (Huron County) Sheriff Dane Howard, Huron County Health Commissioner Tim Hollinger and Huron County Board of Health Medical Director Dr. Stephanie Gibson, participants from both courts will have the opportunity to integrate a Vivitrol regimen into their recovery program,” Conway said.

“In a nut shell, Vivitrol is an opiate blocker administered by a shot every 28 days. Vivitrol blocks a person’s opiate receptors so that heroin or opiate use will not result in the person getting high. In conjunction with probation, case plans to assist in counseling, employment and education, the use of Vivitrol has proven to be a useful tool to break the cycle of opiate addition,” the judge explained.

Beginning Monday, three full-time counselors will start taking referrals for these programs. The counseling will be conducted in the offices located in the basement of the Huron County Office Building, 12 E. Main St., which is next to the courthouse in Norwalk.

“The counselors will utilize individual and group sessions and provide instant access to programming including treatment readiness, intensive outpatient services, and after care. The program is limited to court referrals only,” Conway said.

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