Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services Community Resource Development Director Brad Reed compared the drug abuse problem to an octopus.
“It has its tentacles everywhere. People are prescribed opiate pain killers for legitimate reasons. Especially after major surgery some kind of opiate is usually prescribed,” he said. “For a reason no one seems to understand yet, some people are more susceptible to addiction. Their prescription runs out, they go doctor shopping.”
They use up that avenue and find their opiates on the street, but those are expensive. Heroin is cheaper and much more easily available.
This drug abuse avenue starts legitimately, however Reed noted another pathway ties into mental health. Despite the advancements in understanding over the years, mental health issues still carry a stigma.
“Individuals may have financial concerns or they have no health insurance. Some don’t trust doctors, so they choose to self medicate,” he said. “Sometimes it’s alcohol. Other times it’s drugs… even cigarettes are a form of self-medication. It calms them down.”
They’ve found the brain functions of those suffering from a form of mental illness are different from normal functions, he added.
“Regardless, it still hurts.”
There are different reasons for back pain, for instance. But the back still hurts.
“The relationship between mental illness and drugs isn’t typical, but it’s definitely sometimes there.”
Reed gave another example: eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Individuals suffering from these disorders literally do not see themselves the way others see them. We see thin. Their self-perception is weight problem. Reed noted if not treated by a professional, this leads to anxiety and can then lead to them trying to self medicate.
Reed said these are just two of the many reasons for the escalating drug problem being seen everywhere. He noted State Attorney General Mike DeWine’s focus on bringing awareness to all aspects of drug abuse, including prescription drugs.
Some urban areas, including Miami County, have recognized the significance of certain types of crimes and have established specialized dockets to deal with them. One such docket is the Miami County Common Pleas Drug Court Program.
The program is supervised by a judge and is limited to non-violent Felony 3, 4 and 5 convictions. Those allowed to enter the program are screened according to different factors such as history, circumstances, previous diversions, other health conditions and more.
Is this something rural areas such as Darke County might consider?
“Probably not,” Reed said. “A specialized docket is just a formal way to establish procedures. One of the things they try to do, for instance, is look at a repeat offender’s crime… why is he breaking into stores? To feed addiction. So the purpose is to try to stop the addiction…
“Your judges (Common Pleas Judge Jonathan Hein) and (Municipal Court Judge Julie Monnin) are already doing that. They’re taking these factors into consideration; they aren’t incarcerating, they’re trying to intervene and rehabilitate.”
He added pretty much everyone knows each other in a rural community. They know who the resource people are, how to find them and probably already have a working relationship with many of them in other areas.
“That isn’t always the case in an urban area. Formalizing the process gives them the tools they need.”
Reed also noted the more conservative rural areas have a tendency to be less likely to jump on trends, such as specialized dockets, until they see how it’s working elsewhere. Urban areas do it because they have a problem and they are trying to come up with workable options to deal with it.
“I think courts are willing to try anything that’s plausible,” Reed said. “If they wait for the data to come in, that could be 20 years down the road. We’ll have missed an entire generation.”
Special docket courts, in addition to drugs, have been set up for mental health and veterans. Hamilton County (Cincinnati) started the first one in 1995. Thirteen years later, there are approximately 150 around the state.
Reed noted the Ohio Supreme Court has established certification guidelines for special docket courts. He said he thought the deadline was the end of this year or early next year.
The Tri-County Board is dedicated to planning, funding, monitoring and evaluating substance abuse and mental health services for Darke, Miami and Shelby Counties. Darke County Recovery and Darke County Mental Health are contract service providers for the Tri-County Board.