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Hillsdale County’s new drug treatment court program received nearly $500,000 from three grants this fall to help rehabilitate “high-risk, high-need” offenders.

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The U.S. Justice Department provided most of the funds, awarding the program $400,000 to cover its expenses, according to treatment court administrator Brian Hansen. The state of Michigan gave two grants totalling $37,200, and the states’ Highway Safety Planning also granted the court $66,000. Hillsdale’s community also donated to the treatment court.

The treatment court now treats eight participants with alcohol, heroin, and methamphetamine addictions, Hansen said. He said he expects the court to grow to 25 people and possibly as high as 35 people.

The push to introduce a treatment court was headed by District Court Judge Sara Lisznyai, who took her place on the bench in 2014, when drug crimes in Hillsdale County spiked by almost 30 percent. They have only continued to climb, Lisznyai said.

“People would be put in jail that would be addicted to certain drugs or alcohol, and then they would get out of jail and go back to that lifestyle and go back to jail,” Hansen said.

The treatment court attempts to stop that revolving door by targeting prevention and recovery for addicts, unlike standard courts, which focus primarily on punishment. Probation through the treatment court includes measures such as a monitored curfew, random drug testing, surprise house visits, and therapy sessions for up to two years.

“It’s more intensive than your typical probation. It’s not as fun,” Hansen said. “It’s actually hard work for them.”

One of the treatment court’s biggest successes was bringing the drug Vivitrol, which blocks cravings for opioids, into Hillsdale County, according to Molly Kaser, Vivitrol provider and CEO of the Center for Family Health in Hillsdale.

Even so, Vivitrol has only been used to treat two people for heroin addictions in Hillsdale County, with mixed results. One of the patients, after receiving her first shot of Vivitrol, used methamphetamine instead, according to Lisznyai. Such “slip-ups” are expected early on in the treatment, however, Hansen said.

“Recovery includes some relapse,” Lisznyai said. “It is not a situation where you can expect that somebody will start counselling and say, ‘I’m never going to use again,’ and it’s over. It’s going to happen.”

As part of the treatment courts’ efforts to prevent relapses, the Hope House in Jonesville provides therapy and counselling for those enrolled in the drug courts, according to Kelly Delaney, program director of the Hope House.

Past program graduates’ recidivism was less than half that of comparable groups who didn’t go through the program, according to Michigan’s Problem Solving Courts’ annual 2016 report.

“Our community does not have a coordinated response to substance abuse,” District Court Judge Sara Lisznyai said. “My hope is that this is going to be bigger than just the treatment court, that this is going to to turn into a structure that is available in the community.”