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Indigent defense fund to receive highest state reimbursement

CADIZ — The Harrison County Public Defender’s Office, along with public defender offices around the state, will receive the largest reimbursement ever from the state this month and entering the new year.

At Monday’s Harrison County Board of Commissioners meeting, Public Defender C. Adrian Pincola announced that his office will see an 80 percent reimbursement from the state this month through the County Reimbursement Program. The program is offered through the State of Ohio Public Defender Office and reimburses counties throughout Ohio for the operation of their indigent defense systems. These systems include the counties’ public defender offices, court-appointed counsel systems and contracts with not-for-profit organizations, Pincola said.

These systems are meant to help people who cannot afford to pay for their own criminal defense.

“We received notification from Columbus that, as of now, reimbursement is at 80 percent,” Pincola told Commissioners Don Bethel and Dale Norris. Commissioner Paul Coffland was absent from the morning meeting.

This is the highest reimbursement the state has ever provided. In the past the reimbursement amount typically has been between 20 percent and 30 percent, Pincola said, noting the state has been working toward this for a decade.

The county is responsible to provide indigent defense services, Pincola explained. However, the state reimburses a portion of that expense. Thus the county pays the costs up front, then applies for reimbursement. The new reimbursement percentage will cover bills back to October. “October bills, which are paid in December, those are being paid at 80 percent,” he said.

Pincola said the reimbursement will continue at 80 percent until the middle of the upcoming year. In July, the amount could potentially reach 90 percent, he said.

“As you (commissioners) know, they kept increasing it as the money came in from the governor’s office,” he said.

Bethel remarked that the reimbursement is the highest it has ever been. Since 1976, the amount has never been over 50 percent, Pincola said. There was a big push by Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, he said, to increase the rate. There is an additional $55 million for indigent defense budgets available throughout the state now.

“The intent is not simply to have the counties pay less,” Pincola said, “because statewide and nationwide, these offices and services have always been underfunded. The intent by the governor’s office is to provide a higher reimbursement rate to be able to expand services on a local level.”

Pincola said the main intent of the higher reimbursement is so that local offices are able to expand services and increase the quality of those services.

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