Kasich signs bill to establish drug court

Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law today that is to pave the way for the first multi-jurisdictional drug court in the state to operate in Seneca County.

According to a release from the office of State Rep. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, the PIVOT — Participation in Victory of Transition — drug recovery program is to make Seneca County courts more efficient when addressing low-level drug offenses.

The new law established the court, which consolidates drug court proceedings for Tiffn-Fostoria Municipal Court and Seneca County Common Pleas Court.

The release states the courts see the same defendants and deal with the same issues, making the multi-jurisdictional court a common sense idea.

“I appreciate the efforts of Seneca County Common Pleas Court judges Steve Shuff and Michael Kelbley, and Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp in developing an important, collaborative and innovative approach for Seneca County to combat the opioid crisis,” Reineke states in the release. “The pilot program, PIVOT, between the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court and the Seneca County Court of Common Pleas is an admirable example of accountable and responsive service to the citizens of Seneca County.”

The court handles only low-level drug cases and the only people who volunteer and meet certain requirements can join the program. Shuff said last December that participants must forfeit certain rights, such as due process, to join the program. He also said participants’ homes and vehicles may be searched at any time.

Seneca County commissioners approved legislation in December that approved the program.

Shuff said the court is to be in session at least once a week, with the three judges taking turns presiding.

He said the court is a tool to help people with recovery.

“Prison does not solve the problem for people who are addicts,” he said.

Costs related to starting the court mostly were funded by nearly $800,000 in grants received by the courts in 2017.

The drug court’s first session was March 13.

The program is to operate for five years before being re-evaluated by the General Assembly, which can extend the program, make it permanent or let it expire.