The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is attempting to rehabilitate local addicts through its Recovery Court program, rather than sending them out on the streets still addicted and still tempted to commit crimes.
The program was first introduced in 2015 due to the addiction epidemic ravaging Northeast Ohio. Each day two people die from heroin overdoses in in Cuyahoga County alone. So instead of ignoring the problem, the court hopes to become a model for how to treat addicts after they’re arrested.
“For people who are on our docket by the time they get here their lives are in shambles, they can’t keep a job, in many cases they're homeless,” said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg. "So this is a time coming into contact with law enforcement is positive. So we get them into the program and we respond with treatment.”
Recovery court members take part in intense counseling, random drug tests and other tools needed to address their addiction and personal trauma. In most cases, after completing the program's requirements, original charges are dropped.
"My boyfriend and I were arrested for possession. I couldn’t imagine life without alcohol, I couldn’t understand how other people could go through life without using or drinking," recovery court graduate Amelia Butvin told News 5.” I definitely wouldn’t have found a way to recover from my addiction to alcohol. I wouldn’t have been able to recover from my traumatic experiences.”
This past Wednesday recovery court held a ceremony for 19 members of the program at the justice center in downtown Cleveland.
But not every story of recovery has a happy ending. Last month one of the program’s recent graduates relapsed — a sad reminder of just how serious addiction of any type is around Northeast Ohio.