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STEUBENVILLE – Seven months after its launch, the Steubenville Municipal Mental Health Court received final certification from the Specialized Records Commission of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Specialized cases are courts that focus on specific types of offenses or offenders and use a combination of different techniques to hold offenders accountable while addressing the underlying causes of their behavior.

There are over 210 specialty cases in Ohio courts that deal with issues such as drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, human trafficking, and mental health.

To receive certification, local courts must submit an application, conduct an on-site visit, and provide specific program documents in response to certification standards that came into effect seven years ago.

These standards provide a minimum level of consistent practice for specialty cases across Ohio and allow local courts to innovate and tailor programs to meet the needs and resources of their community.

“It’s finally over” Municipal Judge John Mascio said Monday. “We have been operational since November. They made their visit there and we had a lot of great feedback. They were really excited about our program and how it worked.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said specialized cases divert offenders to initiatives that “To use tools and adapted services to rehabilitate the offender so that he can become a productive member of society”.

“Studies have shown that this approach works by reducing recidivism while saving taxpayer dollars,” O’Connor said.

Since the inception of the Steubenville Mental Health Court, Mascio has said that only one person has reoffended, “And it happened when they first started the program.”

“Since that time this person has moved to get their GED and is drug free,” he added.

He said not everyone is eligible for the program: To be eligible, offenders must be residents of Jefferson County who meet specific legal and clinical criteria:

* Participants must have been diagnosed with a serious or serious mental illness – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or major depressive or affective disorder.

* They must also be non-violent offenders. This means that there are no sex offenders or anyone accused of domestic violence or other violent crimes.

“The goal is court-supervised treatment to give them the opportunity to lead successful and law-abiding lives,” he said, noting that the program addresses concurrent issues, such as drug and alcohol addiction.

“Basically it’s like a full time job for them” he said. “This program is intensive. To be accepted, they must meet both clinical and legal criteria. For example, they must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist with mental problems and they must meet legal requirements. They have to come to court once a week, they go through random drug tests, and they have to meet with mental health professionals and participate in treatment programs.

He said they were trying to limit registrations to around 15 people at a time, although currently they have 10 people participating. Although no one has graduated yet, he said several people have reached phase 2 of the four-phase program.

Mascio said court administrator Kristina Cologie had done a remarkable job.

“Opponents say (the specialist files) are gentle on crime, but I think it’s an acknowledgment that past practices aren’t working,” Mascio said. “We cannot continue to imprison people without addressing the underlying programs. The goal of the program is to reduce recidivism, and it’s a victory for communities because it costs money to house prisoners – $ 65 per day for women, $ 60 per day for men. – and if they’re not in jail, they rule the law. permanent lives. It is a victory for the court because we do not have to continue to solve legal problems, and it is a victory for the individuals themselves because they are now leading healthy and productive lives.

Certification requirements include establishing eligibility conditions, evaluating the effectiveness of the specialist case, and building a processing team to implement the day-to-day operations of the specialist case. The team may include approved healthcare providers, law enforcement, judicial staff and is headed by the specialist judge.

Mascio admits he was initially reluctant to get too involved.

“My role is to be a judge, not a social worker, but it’s really been a great experience for me, in terms of seeing the transformation and the difference the mental health tribunal is making. We have people who now have jobs, who buy cars, get housing ”, he said.

Mascio also said they have a “Many community stakeholders who have subscribed to the program”, noting that the Steubenville City Council, the Jefferson County Commission and the Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Council are all invested in helping the program, funded by a $ 60,000 grant through the Department of Ohio Criminal Justice, as well as city, county, and P&R council funding. He said they can reapply for the criminal justice grant for three more years.

“I think it’s important to recognize that these programs are not crime-lenient, they recognize that past practices of incarcerating people just don’t work,” he reiterated. “It’s a very difficult, very intensive program and it takes a really long time. The progress they have made (it’s amazing).

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