Pubdate: Sat, 28 Mar 2015
Source: News Herald (Willoughby, OH)
Copyright: 2015 The News-Herald
Author: Matt Skrajner


"I can't say 'hell yes,' can I?" Mentor Municipal Court Judge John
Trebets answered when asked if all the extra work was worth it.

On March 9, the city's drug court expanded and is now the Lake County
Drug Court, extending its alternatives to incarceration to the entire

Mentor's drug court began in April 2010 and has helped dozens of low
level, non-violent drug offenders get back on the road to recovery.

"We can only help those that want to help themselves," Trebets said of
the voluntary nature of the program.

If someone else was also a victim in the original offense, that victim
is consulted before participation in drug court is an option, the judge 

While each treatment path is different for each client, Trebets said
typically drug court is an 18- to 24-month commitment, has more
intense supervision than ordinary probation, has random drug testing
and more frequent court appearances.

Only certain people are ale to utilize the drug court: no drug
traffickers or those with child or sex offenses can enter the program,
he said.

Occasionally, periods of incarceration are used in tandem with the
drug court.

"We can make sure there's a drying out period where there's no drug or
alcohol," Trebets said. "And then we can look at the rehabilitation
after that."

Trebets and his court staff sought help from numerous area
organizations when developing the program, including the Lake County
Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board, Lake-Geauga
Recovery Centers and the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Kim Fraser, executive director of the ADAMHS board, said drug courts
are a great way for people who have made mistakes but truly want help,
to get back on the right track.

"It creates a healthy community," Fraser said.

She added that Trebets was a great person to be able to lead the drug
court, as he's a "fierce advocate" for residents without being naive.

"Nobody's pulling the wool over Judge Trebets's eyes," she

Fraser also said the expansion of the drug court to cover the entire
county was critical in battling the spread of heroin and opiates in
the area.

"They know no geographic bounds, they know no socio-economic bounds,"
she said.

As Trebets explained, drug traffickers often sell heroin on the cheap
to get users hooked. The habit is then extremely difficult to break.

"After the first time, they don't get the high any more," Trebets
said. "They just need it to feel normal."

The first drug court was established in 1989 in Miami-Dade County in
Florida. Since then, more than 2,500 such courts have been established
nationwide and are either operating or are planned in all 50 states,
the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, according to the
Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Studies have shown that drug courts are often a less expensive and
more effective way to treat those with addiction problems when
compared to incarceration.

Drug courts saved governments an average of between $5,680 and $6,208
per participant when compared due in large part to less recidivism.
Just 29 percent of drug court participants tested positive for drugs
within 18 months, as opposed to 46 percent of comparable offenders in
traditional court settings, according to the National Institute of

Additionally, the study found that 52 percent of drug court
participants were rearrested compared to 62 percent of those in normal
court settings. The drop in recidivism is important, as drug offenders
are filling up prisons nationwide.

As of Feb. 21, 96,036 inmates in the federal prison system are
incarcerated due to drug crimes, which accounts for 48.7 percent of
total inmates, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The next
closest offense was weapons, explosives and arson at 31,631, or 16

Lake County Sheriff Daniel Dunlap has worked closely with Trebets
since the founding of the county's Mental Health Court in 2004, which
Trebets also operates.

"The guy is a glutton for punishment," Dunlap joked.

Trebets and his staff do not get paid any additional money for running
the drug and mental health courts. But Dunlap is glad Trebets does the
work because there is no easy answer to helping those with drug and
alcohol addiction.

"It takes a concerted effort from multiple angles," he said. "(The
drug court) is good for everybody."

Much of that extra work came when applying for the certification for
expansion of the drug court from the Ohio Supreme Court.

"It was a tedious task," Trebets said. "But it made us cross our T's
and dot our I's and become even more efficient and effective."

The certification process involves an application, multiple reviews by
the Supreme Court's Specialized Dockets staff and a site visit.

"We give the community their sons, their daughters, their husbands,
their wives and their children back to be healthy and productive,"
Trebets said.

The judge recently received a letter from a past drug court graduate
that included two pictures: one of the woman when she was arrested and
one of her today.

"It was like night and day," he said. "Those are the things that keep
us going... When we get those wins, we cherish them."
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