Belmont Common Pleas Court accepts drug grant

ST. CLAIRSVILLE The Belmont County Court of Common Pleas has secured a grant of $250,000 from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections for the purpose of substance abuse treatment for the period of March 2014-June 2016.

It is one of 29 counties in the state that have applied for and received the grant.

The grant is part of the Smart Ohio pilot funding project to address the opiate crisis in the state.

The application and receipt of funds was made possible by Chief Probation Officer Ed Gorence, and Common Pleas Judges John M. Solovan II and Frank Fregiato, who provided research and statistics on county programs.

Gorence said funds will go toward treatments such as drug court along with the expansion of other programs.

“This money is available to any defendant through common pleas court, whether they’re drug court or not,” Gorence said, noting that the drug treatment includes in-patient and out-patient cases, depending on individual needs. “Initially we’re going to expand all of the existing treatment that’s already available to the defendants here, and then hopefully we’ll be able to do more followup.”

He added that the courts will have a better idea of the increased number of defendants using the expanded services with the next few months. He noted the county has seen an increase in drug-related issues.

“Unfortunately, the drug addiction problem around here has really, really exploded recently,” he said, adding that opiates are the current drug of choice, with prescription medication and heroin as well.

The probate courts commonly see 150-200 eligible drug-related individuals yearly.

“We are very pleased that Mr. Gorence went out and worked on getting this grant, because it is going to help us with the very serious drug and alcohol problem that we are now dealing with in our court. We hope now that we have other alternatives other than the prison system for use in perhaps helping some of these people change their lifestyle,” said Solovan.

“We’re very excited about the program. We feel that we can use this in combination with incarceration and counseling could be a big picture and part of the rehabilitation because we have a huge drug problem in Belmont County.”

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com