Jefferson Behavioral, municipal court team up to end addiction

Steubenville Municipal Court and Jefferson Behavioral Health have teamed up to provide more help for criminal offenders addicted to drugs or alcohol. The program will provide group counseling in addition to other services offered by the behavioral health agency. Participating are, from left, Frank Marcino, chief probation officer; Mark Stacy, probation officer; Judge John J. Mascio; Julianna Dulkoski, behavioral health Community Outreach Recovery Environment substance abuse counselor; and Kim Vich, C.O.R.E. director. — Mark Law

STEUBENVILLE — Municipal court has partnered with Jefferson Behavioral Health’s Community Outreach Recovery Environment to provide additional counseling to criminal offenders on probation who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

Kim Vich, C.O.R.E. director, said she has been meeting with Judge John J. Mascio and court Chief Probation Officer Frank Marcino to develop a program to help probationers stop their criminal and addictive thinking.

She said the goal is to get the probationers off drugs and reduce recidivism.

The program has seven enrolled and will be available to county courts in Toronto, Wintersville and Dillonvale. She said 12-15 offenders is a good number of participants for the program at any given time.

Vich said most of the probationers are addicted to opiates and a few have alcoholism issues.

The program, consisting of 90-minute sessions of group counseling, will take six to eight weeks to complete, Vich said.

She said the probationers were nervous at first but the group is starting to mold.

“We are getting a lot of good feedback,” Vich said.

Drug testing is part of the program, and if drug use continues, then Marcino steps in and the level of care by C.O.R.E. increases.

Those enrolled will receive other services by C.O.R.E., including individual and group counseling.

Vich noted the evidence-based program is used in the state prison system.

The program’s success will be measured by the rate of recidivism, officials said.

Marcino said he anticipates about a 75 percent success rate.

Transportation is an issue with those in the program, and he said the group counseling, coupled with meetings with probation officers, will make it one stop for the probationers instead of having to go to different locations.

“Steubenville is a big trigger for most people. They can get sidetracked and get in trouble going between locations for service,” he said.

Offenders who have three misdemeanor offenses within two years get supervised probation, and anyone with a heroin-related offense automatically gets supervised probation, Marcino said. There are 85 people with heroin addiction on probation through the court, Marcino said.

There is a small percentage of offenders who want to get help, according to Marcino. He said the program makes it possible for the offenders to keep treatment appointments and meetings with probation officers.

The judge said the resources of the court are getting stretched thin with the heroin epidemic.

“If we don’t treat the underlying heroin addiction, they will be back,” Mascio said.

One of the biggest problems in fighting the heroin epidemic is not having an in-house, long-term treatment program, according to Marcino.

“It is a struggle for these people to get help,” he said.

There is only so much municipal court can do to force people to get treatment, and he noted common pleas court can order a stay at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center to get needed treatment.

“If we can change only one person, it is worth it,” Vich said.

(Law can be contacted at