By: Melanie Williamson
The Vermilion Municipal Court is exploring news ways to help people find help for addiction. In the February 23, 2017 edition of the Photojournal, Vermilion Municipal Court Judge Zack Dolyk and probation officer Beth Beatty explained some of the many problems they are facing due to the recent heroin epidemic.
They each expressed that while they have had some success stories of addicts getting and staying clean, they are not seeing enough. Judge Dolyk stated, “I wish I knew the answers to stopping this epidemic…its jail or treatment. We try both, often neither way works.” Despite the discouraging numbers, both Judge Dolyk and officer Beatty do what they can consisting exploring new options.
Officer Beatty explained that she works with addicts to get them into rehabilitation whenever she can. Although she acknowledged there are new resources becoming available, getting individuals into rehab is not easy due to waiting lists.
One of the newest initiatives being tried is a voluntary monthly program being held at the municipal court house for all those on probation through the Vermilion Municipal Court. Beaty explained that everyone on probation is invited to the program, but it is not mandatory. Each month they plan to have guest speakers from different organizations come in to explain the services they have available.
These speakers and organizations are not being endorsed by the court; they are simply being presented. The first of these monthly programs was offering in May. Judge Dolyk stated before the start of the presentation that their goal is to offer as much information and options as they can in hopes of connecting those struggling with addiction to the resources they need to get and stay clean.
The judge went on to explain to those in attendance that these sessions were voluntary and participants were welcomed and encouraged to share or ask questions. He assured them that nothing said would be noted or used against them in any way.
The first of these monthly speakers was representatives from an organization called the Starfish Project. The presenters included Pastor Douglas Winner and Ron Baily, both of whom are heavily involved in the organization. The Starfish Project started in 2010 in Huron County and recently expanded into Erie County. They raise money to help cover the cost for a rehabilitation program called Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge is a Christian, faith-based program that includes daily worship and bible study in addition to counseling and life training.
Despite the name, this program is open to adults ages 18 and over. It is a 12 to 14-month residential treatment program. This means that participants go to live at a Teen Challenge facility for at least a year before graduating from the program. During this time, residents are allowed a weekly phone call to family, and there is a monthly family day when visitors are allowed. Although it was shared that family visiting days are not for boyfriends or girlfriends.
Pastor Winner added that they do not have a facility that allows women to bring their children, but followed this up by stating that the best way for them to be a good mom is to recover, so they believe the program is worth the time away from children.
Some of those in attendance shared that they felt the program was too long to be away. There was concern over being away from family and jobs. To this, Pastor Winner explained that the average drug addict goes into 90-day rehabs four times before they get and stay clean. The Teen Challenge program is longer because Winner asserts it is more effective and essentially takes the same amount of time it takes for an individual to get and stay clean.
Baily asserted that the success rate of the Teen Challenge is over 80%, however, that is only of the people that complete the full 12 to 14-month program. That percentage does not take into account those that drop out during the first 12 months.
Teen Challenge facilities do not include a medical detox center, so prospects are advised to be off the drugs for 48 to 71 hours before entering the program.
Baily and Pastor Winner both asserted the program is not “religious.” However, the focus of the program is based heavily on Christian beliefs. The Teen Challenge website states, “Through our systematic Bible-based curriculum, Teen Challenge USA students learn to recognize the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives, apply God’s Word to their life circumstances, invite the power of God to help them overcome their life-controlling problems, and learn to become more Christ-like.” Baily went on to state that the faith-based emphasis of this program is why he suggests it is more successful than other programs.
Judge Dolyk closed the program by thanking those that attended and reminding them that these sessions are for informational purposes, and if they were interested in what this program had to offer, they could get more information.