Success Seen in New Court Anti-Heroin Program
A program to stop parents from using heroin is being permanently continued because of its initial success as a three-month pilot effort.Geauga County Probate and…
A program to stop parents from using heroin is being permanently continued because of its initial success as a three-month pilot effort.
Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell plans to keep the Family Life Intervention Program (F.L.I.P.) going as long as the county commissioners are willing to help fund it.
Initiated in May using court funds and approximately $22,000 from the commissioners, the program assists drug-addicted parents in attaining and retaining a sober lifestyle.
This prevents their children from being placed in long-term protective custody of the Geauga County Department of Job and Family Services through foster care.
Using F.L.I.P., “we have been able to get them assessed and into treatment sooner and, as a result, we’re able to return a child to the couple at the time of a (court) disposition,” the judge said.
When a parent or parents appear in Grendell’s court on a drug dependency charge, an adjudication hearing is held to determine if there is any truth to the allegation.
If the charge is true, a disposition hearing must be held within 60 days to determine if a child is to be placed in foster care.
Early Assessment Important
A key element to success is the program’s quick ability to assess heroin-using parents, a job done by the Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers, and place them into a heroin treatment program, Grendell said.
“Prior to our first F.L.I.P. case, we never returned a child to a parent at the time of a disposition hearing because normally we weren’t able to have them assessed for the extent of their drug problem,” Grendell said. “Now, with F.L.I.P., that’s turned around. This has caught everybody off guard because we’ve never been able to do this in a drug case before.”
Traditionally, the reunification of a parent(s) with a child usually takes one to two years. That’s because it involves from four to eight court hearings and child placement with a foster parent or relative, processes that are costly for the county and the parents, the judge said.
A long separation also can affect the emotional well-being of young children who may not understand why they can’t live with their parents, the judge said.
“This is why a quick solution to a drug dependency case also is important,” Grendell said.
Not only is the F.L.I.P. beneficial for the child and his or her parents, it also is saving money spent on foster care placement and subsequent hearings, he said.
The only major expense is the cost of monitoring parents for drug abuse, which is less expensive than foster placement, the judge added.
Even though only three parents went through the pilot program, beginning in January, Grendell said every parent charged with abuse or neglect because of drug dependency will be enrolled in the F.L.I.P for assessment and treatment.
An important part of the program is its core group of more than a dozen volunteers, most of whom have been recruited from area churches. They serve as vital support for parents to prevent them from relapsing into drug use, Grendell said.
“We — myself and court staff — train them on how to communicate with these folks to provide emotional support so they (parents) have somebody they can talk to and give them emotional support, and periodically check on them,” the judge said. “This doesn’t replace their drug counselors. This is sort of like being a sponsor in an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) program, although it’s less structured than that.”
F.L.I.P. Saves Lives and Money
There’s another reason for speedy assessment. Prior to the start of the program, a man and woman died of overdoses while waiting for assessment, Grendell said.
“The sooner we can get them into F.L.I.P., the better,” Grendell said. “So far, our initial experience has been positive.”
Yet, Grendell remains realistic.
“This is not the be-all to end-all,” he said. “I also realize relapse is a concern. The likelihood that some folks may use (heroin) again is certainly higher than any of us would like to see,” he added.
This is the reason for the two-year monitoring program included in the F.L.I.P., he explained.
Heroin and drug abuse was not a major factor in Grendell’s court when he was appointed to the judgeship in September 2011.
The judge said he mainly saw parents who were hoarders, those charged with abuse or neglect, or those charged with domestic violence.
Most parental drug dependency cases involved those on cocaine and methamphetamines, he said.
Only 35 to 40 percent of his total court cases involved foster placement.
“But now we’re running 50 percent above that and most abuse, neglect and dependency cases are heroin related,” Grendell said. “It’s amazing how many cases have popped up this year. It seems more uncontrolled than some of the other behaviors we’ve seen.”
He added,?”From a taxpayers’ perspective, any money we spend upfront to get this under control will save money because it reduces the time the family is involved in the court process and JFS.”
The commissioners, who have committed about $119,000 to the F.L.I.P. for three years, “stepped up to the plate because they saw the value of this,” the judge said.
Only a few youths who appear before Grendell in juvenile court use heroin. Most are marijuana users. Some have said marijuana should be allowed because its medical use has been condoned by the laws of other states.
These youths fail to realize medical use of weed only is available to people older than age 21, Grendell added.
“The danger is they can graduate from marijuana to heroin because is it so available and so cheap,” the judge said. “It gives them a bigger high. The trouble is, as they get addicted to it, it can kill them and that’s why we’ve got to warn them about it.”
Growth of Heroin Addiction
Despite what some people believe, the sudden surge in heroin use is being found among all socio-economic classes, not just low income people, Grendell said.
Heroin users include professionals, blue collar workers and, surprisingly, young women older than 18 — including some mothers, he said.
Eight infants born from Geauga County-addicted mothers have been placed in foster care since January, compared to one baby in 2012, the judge said.
The majority of all addicts blame their addiction on their inability to deal with life’s stresses.
“When I was growing up, I was taught how to deal with stress by prayer, family and exercise,” Grendell said. “Somehow, we’ve lost talking to mom and dad, praying and going for a walk or jog, or some other exercise.”
One woman who appeared before him claimed the stress reuniting with her three sons would only cause her to relapse into heroin use.
The judge believes people are being introduced to a growing drug culture by TV commercials.
“I’ve seen as many as six drug commercials per hour,” he said. “I think there is a message that somehow is subconsciously getting through that somehow drug use is more acceptable for any problem. That’s wrong, really wrong because too many people now think it’s OK to use drugs as an escape.”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.