May is National Drug Court Month. The designation was established to raise awareness of the need and the effectiveness of drug courts across the United States and nowhere is that more evident than at the Summit County Juvenile Court.
The Summit County Juvenile Court maintains two drug courts: The Crossroads Program and the Family Re-Unification Through Recovery Court (FRRC). Both programs are certified by the Ohio Supreme Court as Specialized Dockets, are grounded in community collaboration, seek to strengthen the family unit, and seek to strengthen the resolve of the person in treatment for substance misuse to achieve recovery.
The Crossroads Program was the first program Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio sought to implement when she became Juvenile Court Judge in 2003. Research indicates that over 80 percent of youth battling substance misuse also suffered from some form of mental health issue. Therefore, Judge Teodosio's approach was to create a single co-occurring docket addressing both substance misuse and mental health. When a youth becomes court-involved, assessments are completed to determine the underlying behaviors that led to them being charged. If it is determined that the youth presents with signs of substance misuse, the case is referred to Crossroads.
The Crossroads Program has become a model for other Juvenile Courts in Ohio and across the nation. The youth must achieve goals to advance in the program, all while testing clean for substances. There is a family element that must also be satisfied as part of the treatment. It normally takes a youth and the family about a year to navigate through the program and, once all goals are achieved, the youth graduates from the program. More importantly, the youth will be equipped with methods to move forward and live a happy, productive, drug-free life. In the last year alone, eight youth have graduated.
The groundbreaking Crossroads Program has received local, statewide and national recognition. The latest award came in 2016 when it was named Outstanding Program of the Year by the Ohio State Bar Association.
"The recognition is appreciated, because it affirms that what we are doing is viewed as making a difference," said Judge Teodosio. "But our primary goal will always be providing youth and their families the necessary treatment to successfully move through the program and for the youth to remain sober once they leave Crossroads."
Remaining sober and strengthening the family unit is at the very core of the Family Re-Unification Through Recovery Court with "recovery" being the operative word. Established in 2014, the FRRC docket seeks to reunite a family that has had children removed from the home due, at least in part, to substance misuse. Summit County Children Services and FRRC staff alert the Court that the case may be appropriate for the FRRC docket. Once reviewed and approved by the FRRC team, the parent enters the program and begins the hard work of recovery.
Each FRRC participant has a team of individuals supporting them through their journey to recovery. Court staff and community professionals meet weekly to review the progress of each participant and updates are given to the FRRC Magistrate during frequent review hearings. Like Crossroads, once program requirements are satisfied, the parent graduates from the program. The ultimate success story is when a parent maintains sustained sobriety and reunites with his or her children. In 2015, The Ohio Department of Youth Services honored the FRRC and one of its participants with the Thomas J. Strickrath Re-Entry Award.
In three years, there have been 20 graduates from the FRRC docket and there are currently 14 individuals participating.