HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) — Eleven months before COVID-19 turned life as we know it upside down, four people, a prosecutor, and a city court began flipping life upright.

The city began focusing on Substance Use Disorder Recovery in a new court. Similar programs are commonly referred to as “Drug Court.” When considering there are lives, at stake the court can be called anything as long as there are positive results.

The court was headed up by renowned and retired Franklin County Judge Scott VanDerKarr. He started similar courts in the ’90s and touts a 70% success rate during his tenure, before retiring in 2016.

Now, Magistrate VanDerKarr graduated four people from the Hilliard program that began in 2019.

“I can confidently say I wouldn’t be where I am today without this program,” said program graduate Tina Schreck in a news release. “I’ve been sober not for nearly two years.”

To know where Schreck is may be defined more as to where she is not: Jail or dead.

“The Hilliard Recovery Court has given me the ability to enjoy life beyond what I ever thought it could be,” she said.

According to Hilliard City Prosecutor Dawn Steele, this approach is more desirable.

“With a program like this, we are dealing with people on an individual basis, helping them break their addictions rather than just putting them behind bars. We are offering them treatment and potential recovery, not just punishment.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a 20-year span from 1999 to 2019, more than 841,000 people have died from an overdose.

Ohio Overdose Deaths

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More specifically, Franklin County deaths in 2020 were up by 45.6 percent, according to the Franklin County Coroner’s Office.

Source: Franklin County Forensic Science Center
Office of the Coroner

The Hilliard Recovery Court is designed to help people with substance use disorder to find a path away from jail and toward an alcohol-drug-free life. The Court identifies people going through the court system and struggling with substance use disorder and diverts them away from potential jail terms and into a closely monitored treatment program to help them gain control of their lives.

“This is an intensive recovery program,” Steele said. “I am so proud of these graduates who made the decision to dedicate themselves to recovery and have used the tools provided by the Hilliard Recovery Court Staff to make life-saving changes.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 11, the court graduated four of the inaugural participants from the program.

“The idea of a recovery court is to identify people going through our court system who are struggling with substance use disorder and divert them away from potential jail terms and into a closely monitored substance-abuse treatment program that helps them get control of their lives,” Steele said.

The recovery court is designed for high-risk, high-need individuals who need intensive intervention, the City has recently expanded the efforts by offering Recovery Education Program plans resolutions for individuals at lower risk and need levels. This applies intervention service solutions to the problems that bring non-violent, low-level offenders into contact with police and fire services.

Prevention and recovery resources

Stop Overdoses
Take Charge Ohio
Ohio Against OD

Hilliard’s program was made possible in part by a $50,000 grant from the Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County and by approved additional funding from the City of Hilliard. The program’s early success enabled the City to apply for and receive a $500,000 federal grant to be used for staff and recovery service expansion through 2024.