July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Medina County officials: No money this year for rehab center at jail

County officials say there is no money in this year’s budget for a proposal to turn part of the Medina County Jail into a drug rehab facility.

Medina County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler proposed the idea to county commissioners last month. The plan calls for reopening the east pod of the jail as a short-term rehab facility for drug offenders with opiate and heroin addictions.

Kimbler said the program could reduce repeat drug offenses and asked for about $450,000 to get it running.

County Administrator Chris Jakab said any funds for the program would not be available until at least next year.

“If we were to start this, it would not be until at least 2015,” Jakab said. “That isn’t saying the commissioners are committed to starting it.”

Jakab said the county’s revenues from sales tax have gone up, but money from Ohio’s four casinos, which have helped the county fund new programs and projects over the past two years, appear to be declining, leaving commissioners hesitant to start any new programs.

Jakab also said the rehab program is not clearly defined.

“I think there’s more planning and research to be done by the Sheriff’s Office before we can even start to put together a meaningful budget on it,” Jakab said.

About two weeks ago, Sheriff Tom Miller took a team to Greene County, where a similar system is in place.

Miller shared his ideas about how Medina County’s program might operate.

“It would be more intense programming, and these participants would have to be volunteers and approved by their judge,” Miller said. “And the program then would also have a six-month probation period for continuing treatment.”

Miller said he likes the model in Greene County and Medina’s program likely would be a hybrid of it.

“They do about 40 to 43 hours of activity with the inmates during the week, not just treatment, but GED and other programming that will impact how successful they can be when they return to their neighborhoods,” Miller said.

But Miller said Greene County has an old jail building converted for rehab purposes, while he hopes Medina County’s program could make better use of existing jail space.

Miller told Kimbler there is a downside to the program — time spent in the rehab facility would not count as jail time for inmates convicted on drug charges.

“I think he was concerned about a program that would not give jail time credit,” Kimbler said. “Part of the concept here would be selling the attorneys on this so they can convince their clients to try it. But that could be a hard sell if there’s no credit and they are unsure that their client would make it through the program.”

Kimbler said most heroin addicts who come through his court physically detoxify while in jail but return to the drug or commit additional crimes soon after being released.

He said that unlike Greene County, which puts inmates through a rehab program of anywhere from 60 to 180 days, Medina would try to run a shorter program of about 30 days before transferring the person to a longer-term program with court supervision.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @danpomp32.