Login | August 08, 2020

Medina Cty. holds National Drug Court Awareness celebration

Legal News Reporter

Published: July 10, 2020

From inspirational journeys of despair to hopefulness to firsthand accounts of the obstacles encountered on the road to recovery—those are some of the stories that were posted on the Medina County Drug Court’s Facebook page in May to pay tribute to participants and graduates of the Medina Intervention Program (MIP) as part of National Drug Court Awareness month.
Every May drug courts around the country celebrate the accomplishments of those in recovery as they seek to get their lives back on track.
Prior to the pandemic, Medina County court officials marked the occasion by holding a public event each May. But due to the crisis they had to come up with a different approach to carry out this year’s theme, “Stories Worth Telling.”
“Generally we hold our events at town gazebos,” said Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce Kimbler. “We invite participants, their family and friends, treatment providers, local officials and members of the media to attend the celebration.
“We had an event scheduled in Wadsworth for the first Wednesday in May,” said Judge Kimbler. “When it became clear that we had to cancel the event, we wanted to find another way to recognize our participants who work very hard.”
After discussing alternatives with Medina County Drug Court Coordinator Carla Damron, they decided to ask participants to submit letters about their journeys, which would be posted throughout the month on the drug court’s Facebook page.
Called Colors of Recovery, the stories contain balloons with captions that summarize the themes of each individual’s story.
“I was online trying to figure out what the options might be,” said Damron. “I found something called colors of recovery, and as I was reading through it, I learned how certain colors represent certain characteristics and qualities associated with different stages of recovery.
“I presented the idea to Judge Kimbler and she really liked it,” said Damron. “As I read through the letters, I tried to match the themes to the appropriate color of recovery.”
In all, about 15 participants and two treatment providers sent in letters, which in some instances included photos of themselves.
In one letter, Medina County Drug Court participant Melanie Krahenbuhl, who suffers from both substance abuse and mental health disorders, discusses how the program is helping her to lead a happier and more productive life.
She recently entered phase five and is currently studying human services with a concentration on psychology, addiction and legal services at Walden University.
Krahenbuhl’s balloon, which is pink and appears at the top right next to her photo, contains the words “Compassion Nurturing Affection.”
“My husband retired Common Pleas Court Judge James Kimbler also posted the stories on a Facebook page he manages entitled, ‘Medina Court News,’” said Judge Kimbler.
Unveiled in November of 2013, the Medina Intervention Program accepts offenders who have been diagnosed with an alcohol or substance use disorder(s) whose charges do not require a mandatory prison term.
The five-phase program is voluntary and provides participants with substance abuse and mental health treatment services and resources, housing, job training and employment placement assistance.
“Individuals can be referred to be screened at different stages of the legal system, including the pretrial/bond phase, post-conviction Community Control or Intervention In Lieu of Conviction (IILOC), where alcohol and/or drug use is directly or indirectly related to the offense,” said Damron.
Participants do not have to live in Medina County, but they must undergo clinical and legal screenings to determine if they meet the eligibility requirements.
“Those who qualify then go over the expectations and requirements of the program with their attorney, before deciding whether to sign a drug court participant agreement. The lawyer, judge and prosecutor must also sign off on the agreement. Once they do so, completing the program becomes a condition of the participant’s probation,” Damron said.
“The first two phases of the program are the most intense in order to help them eliminate as many barriers as possible so they can focus on themselves and their treatment program,” she said. “Depending on the clinical diagnosis and treatment recommendations, a participant may be required to engage in a residential treatment program, intensive outpatient programming, sober living, frequent individual counseling sessions and meetings with case a manager and probation officer.
“The court collaborates with certain treatment providers, which allows us to expedite services.”
By phase three, participants have a peer support recovery coach, and while their reporting and treatment requirements may decrease, they are asked to engage in pro-social activities, volunteer in the community, continue attending sober support groups and start to seek part- or full-time employment or explore some type of educational or vocational program.
“Before completing the program, they will have developed a detailed relapse prevention plan with their treatment provider and peer recovery coach where they identify their triggers and ways to cope with those triggers. We ask that they detail how they will continue to receive treatment, for example, sober support meetings or by staying in touch with their peer recovery coach. We also ask that they list their overall goals for the future.”
The Medina County Common Pleas Court also runs a Mental Health Intervention Program for individuals whose symptoms are directly or indirectly related to the offense.

The four-phase program is voluntary and provides the same type of assistance as the drug court to those who primarily suffer from severe and persistent mental illness.
“We will also accept some people who are diagnosed with mood orders, where their ability to function day to day is impacted due to the severity of their mental health symptoms,” said Damron, who also serves as the mental health court coordinator.
The length of the drug and mental health court programs vary depending on the individual’s progress.
While there are many success stories, not everyone who has graduated has gone on to work with the drug court to provide ongoing assistance to participants as Medina County resident Kip Erwin has done.
In 2017, Erwin found himself facing drug possession charges after police discovered heroin and fentanyl in his car when he was arrested for an OVI offense.
“I had two OVI offenses in four months time,” said Erwin.
He spent two and a half months in jail, before being furloughed to a sober house. Shortly after, he entered the drug court program. He graduated in January 2019 and has been in recovery since August 2017.
“I have never been in a courtroom setting where I felt so completely supported,” he said. “I was treated with such compassion and all of my needs were covered. The program helped with my rent, groceries, transportation and securing employment, which are important to preventing relapse.”
Today Erwin serves as program administrator for the Recovery Center of Medina County and Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute, which offers an eight-month culinary training program that focuses on French fine dining. The program is open to anyone in recovery.

“Students are paid to attend and have full access to all of the recovery center’s programming, case management and support systems,” said Erwin.
In March 2020, Erwin, a certified peer recovery coach in the state of Ohio, and another drug court graduate started the Medina County Drug Court Alumni Group.
“Our mission is to guide and support participants in the drug court program,” said Erwin.
The Colors of Recovery stories were posted on the alumni group’s Facebook page.
“I think it is very important to hold National Drug Court Awareness month events because it promotes camaraderie and accountability among participants,” Erwin said.
“The stories that were sent in demonstrate the pride people are taking in their recovery. It’s important not to regret, forget or hide the missteps, but to learn from them and always remember how far we’ve come.”