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State Justice Inspects New Direction Program

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy recently sat in on an informational meeting with staff of the New Direction program which was held in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge Dean Wilson.

 

 

State Justice Inspects New Direction Program

 

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy recently sat in on an informational meeting with staff of the New Direction program which was held in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge Dean Wilson.

 

 

 

NEW LEXINGTON - State Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy stopped by the Perry County Courthouse Wednesday (March 4, 2020) to receive an update on the successes of the New Direction program. The New Direction program, under the guidance of the Honorable Judge Dean Wilson, enlists the aid and services of a majority of county entities and service agencies to form a customized recovery plan for individuals who in the recent past would have instead likely faced jail sentences. Since its start-up in 2016, New Direction has taken dozens of cases involving persons charged with non-violent, drug related offenses and offered a second chance and the hope of a productive life as opposed to a prison record.

 

“These kinds of programs are vitally important to families and communities across Ohio,” Justice Kennedy said. “People are afflicted with substance abuse and we need to find solutions to resurrect lives, not just in larger areas but in rural communities and sometimes the harder work is in rural communities where there are transportation issues, poverty issues and educational issues as well.” Justice Kennedy says that she likes to visit all 88 Ohio counties at least one time during the year to learn more about issues that affect the citizens outside of Columbus. Her visit to Perry County allowed her the opportunity to sit in on a New Direction staff meeting where she picked up first-hand information from several of the agencies that have helped to make the program a success.

A ceremony held last fall at the Barn at the Backwoods marked the number of graduates from the program at 35. Officials state that New Direction’s success rate exceeds 86 percent. “It’s a holistic approach and that is why they have success,” said Justice Kennedy. “If you just treat substance abuse but not other issues of someone afflicted, then how can they set their life on a new start, how can they start in a new direction?" Kennedy says that judges are normally limited by sentencing guidelines and statutes, and while those may lead to jail time and community control as a response to an act committed it usually does not help to address the underlying reason for why a person would commit a crime. Often enough the suspects commit those offenses to feed their addictions. “A program that is successful looks at all issues,” said Kennedy. “If we can't fix the other issues that a person is dealing with then how can they have stability?”

“Being a team player, that is what unites us is these different programs working together,” said Theressa Snyder, Executive Director of Perry Behavioral Health Choices. Snyder informed Justice Kennedy that “It’s important that when our clients get through the program that they have developed a sense of self respect and have employment. None of the success of the programs would be possible without the work of all of the agencies involved."

“We care about the people that come here," said another member of the New Direction counseling team. “The clients are our No. 1 priority because they are part of our community and we want our community to do well. Judge Wilson wears his kindness on his sleeve and that comes out with our clients.” Programs that are successful look at a holistic dimension of the person, it's just not one area failing in a person’s life. How can we help sustain them in that new direction.

While New Direction is among the first of its kind in Ohio there are currently more than 100 similar programs across the state. “It’s something that I regret not doing earlier," said Judge Wilson. ”I can’t express enough the appreciation I feel that so many different agencies have a hand in making this program successful and to have anyone from the Supreme Court visit us here to see what we do.” Justice Kennedy was informed of the work agencies such as Perry County Court, Perry Behavioral Health, Perry County Job and Family Services, Allwell Health Services, Perry County Veteran's Services and New Lexington City Schools among the dozens of agencies involved in New Direction, assist those involved with the program. There are currently 41 clients enrolled in the New Direction program.

“For a community that has a judge that wants to engage in doing more, they have to be the catalyst. They are the drivers in making the difference," said Justice Kennedy. “Judge Wilson could just sit on the bench and take trial after trial, he didn't have to embrace a specialty court. Once you start a life change with someone suffering from substance abuse, think of what that does for your community. You have another contributing member of society and I believe that you can change a community one person at a time. It is addition by addition.”

 

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