It was 12 years ago when former Hilliard resident Steve Barlow, 55, walked heel to toe on the orders of a police officer in front of his Hoffman Farms residence – and his family.

It was his second arrest in three months for driving while impaired, and when he returned home from jail the next day, his family wasn't there.

"They'd had enough of Steve," said Barlow, now a Columbus resident who appealed to Hilliard City Council on March 18 to accept a grant and, if necessary, provide additional funding necessary to establish a "recovery court" in Hilliard Mayor's Court.

The recovery court would afford others the opportunity to put their lives back on track that he received in Franklin County's drug court, Barlow said.

Legislation for the recovery court received a first reading March 18.

City Council is being asked April 8 to establish the court by emergency vote to meet a deadline for the grant, and it could be up and running by May 1, said Dawn Steele, a Hilliard staff attorney and prosecutor in Franklin County Municipal Court.

Steele said she would identify and recommend participants if a recovery court were established in Hilliard.

A treatment team that would include Steele, a defendant's attorney or public defender, representatives of treatment centers, a program coordinator and the magistrate would discuss a person's eligibility and if necessary, the magistrate would make the final decision, she said.

Steele said the name is "recovery court" to avoid prejudices associated with "drug" and instead focus on "recovery," the intent of the program. Franklin County also has rebranded its program as a recovery court, she said.

"In general, only misdemeanor cases will be accepted," she said.

They could be heard in Hilliard Mayor's Court or transferred to Franklin County Municipal Court, she said. Eligibility would be determined on a case-by-case basis, she said.

In either instance, Steele said, a person who is accepted into recovery court would report to Mayor's Court in Hilliard, where Scott VanDerKarr, a retired judge, would oversee compliance with the program.

Mark Weaver, the magistrate for Hilliard Mayor's Court since 2003, said the recovery court would make a difference.

"It used to be once in a blue moon (that a heroin addict would appear in Mayor's Court), but now it's nearly every week," he said.

The goal of the recovery court would be to hold people accountable with drug screenings, but also provide the support needed to recover.

Most charges would be dropped if the two-year recovery program were completed, Steele said, but the person's personal recovery would be the focus.

"It's about giving them back to their family, not just staying clean," she said.

Barlow said that is a key factor.

"I was hopeless. I didn't know how to ask for help," Barlow said.

He said he was raised to solve his own problems, but after landing before VanDerKarr, who then presided over the drug court in Franklin County Municipal Court, he learned he needed to ask for help.

"Addiction doesn't work that way," he said. "You need help, and I got it there."

Barlow said he now meets his two sons each week for pizza.

"The ripple effect (of recovery) is invaluable," Barlow said.

Cody Brooks, 27, a Galloway resident and a 2010 graduate of Hilliard Darby High School, credited VanDerKarr's drug court for "giving him a second chance" after his marijuana abuse escalated to heroin.

Now employed by the Hilliard City Schools as a bus assistant (he rides a bus but doesn't drive), Brooks said a recovery court in Hilliard "will turn someone's life around."

Hilliard safety director Jim Mosic told City Council members he could speak from the perspective of a former police officer and as a parent, revealing that his son had suffered from addiction.

"We can't 'warehouse' our way out of this problem," Mosic said about relying on incarceration. "This is an opportunity to take a holistic approach."

Although not every individual is successful and relapses occur, such programs as those in Upper Arlington and Whitehall that offer intervention in lieu of incarceration have resulted in lower instances of recidivism, Mosic said.

"We want to develop that here," he said.

About $100,000 annually would be required to operate the program for 15 people, Steele said.

Hilliard would apply for a $60,000 grant from the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County and has a verbal commitment for it, she said.

"There are other grants we can apply for, too," she said. "It should not cost the city anything for the next two years."

The maximum Hilliard would need to secure is $40,000, but it should not require that amount immediately, Steele said.

The emergency legislation for April 8 would authorize acceptance of the grant from ADAMH and appropriate $40,000 from the general fund, according to the legislation.

The program's greatest cost would be the required drug testing, Steele said.

Drug test kits cost approximately $6 each, said city communications director David Ball.

Those accepted into the two-year program would be required to submit to drug tests two or three times a week, Steele said.

But that cost pales in comparison to the cost for incarcerating offenders, recidivism and the crimes that addicts commit to support their drug habits, VanDerKarr said.

The estimated cost of $100,000 per year for 15 participants in Hilliard's recovery court can be compared with the approximate cost of incarcerating a person in jail for a year, which is $29,000, he said.

It costs about $80 a day to incarcerate a prisoner, and the municipality that arrested an individual is billed for the cost of incarcerating the defendant at the county jail, VanDerKarr said.

There is also the cost, more difficult to quantify, of the thefts and other crimes addicts commit to support their addiction, he said.

Other difficult-to-quantify costs are those for police officers and medics responding to drug-related crimes and overdoses and the placement of children with Franklin County Children Services when necessary, VanDerKarr said.

Based on City Council members' reactions March 18, the proposal appeared to have support.

"The ripple effect is real," council member Andy Teater said.

Council member Nathan Painter said the program would help those like Barlow and Brooks to become "productive people" in society again.

"Good people can make bad mistakes, but that doesn't make them bad people," he said. "It's probably easier to go to jail than enter (recovery court), but unless we change our tactic, the problem won't change. This is a step forward."

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