June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Drug rehab at jail to be reviewed

Medina County officials want to see how another county treats addicts before deciding whether to open a treatment facility at the Medina County Jail.

County Common Pleas Court Judge James L. Kimbler met with several county officials Wednesday at the county courthouse to discuss reopening the east pod of the jail, which has been closed for about four years except for several weeks in 2012.

Kimbler has proposed turning the pod into a treatment center for addicted offenders sentenced to jail through the county and municipal courts.

Officials said they want to review a similar program in Greene County.

Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller said opening the pod would alleviate crowding at the jail while also possibly reducing repeat drug offenders.

“It would open up more beds as well as serve the rehabilitation needs we have,” he said.

Miller said the jail sees about 3,700 inmates a year. He said if the program served 36 people at a time for 90-day intervals, he could divert 142 inmates a year from the general jail population.

Miller said he will take a team to southern Ohio to review Greene County’s system and report back to Kimbler and others at a May 7 meeting.

Gail Houk, director of forensic services at Alternative Paths — Medina County’s main drug treatment agency — said the Greene County program has a 60 percent success rate, tracking its cases for a year after release. It has no information beyond one year.

The program enrolls misdemeanor offenders for 90 days and felony offenders for six months, with separate buildings serving male and female inmates.

Unlike Miller’s plan, though, Greene County inmates in the program are returned to general population of the jail at night, Houk said.

Kimbler estimated at a Tuesday commissioners meeting that the cost of staffing the reopened pod with corrections officers would be about $450,000. At Wednesday’s meeting, Miller said the cost would be closer to $410,000 to $415,000.

Any cost for rehabilitation programming would be additional. Houk estimated the programming cost at about $220,000.

Kimbler has asked Medina County commissioners to help pay for the correctional staff and maintaining regular jails services in the pod and may consult the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board for program funding, but not until officials have decided what kind of program to run.

Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley represented the board of county commissioners at the meeting.

He said they would need to see data that show the program could reduce repeat offenders and the social cost of drug addiction, but that officials had given commissioners something to think about.

“If the reduction to recidivism rates and the social cost of drug abuse could be quantified, that would help the board come to a decision,” he said.

He said 60 percent of 142 inmates is a number worth considering and if finances continue to improve, the county could help at least partially.

“All things being equal with our finances, I think some reasonable accommodation could be made,” he said.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.