Court system's shutdown leading to delays in drug and alcohol treatment

TOLEDO (WTVG) - City and county government shutdowns have been necessary to protect people from COVID-19, but the effects of some have been very damaging to agencies serving people who are trying to recover from drug and alcohol addiction.

Matt Rizzo, CEO of A Renewed Mind Recovery treatment centers in northwest Ohio, says the criminal justice system is needed and necessary to help some people get into and stay in treatment.

“There's been limited access to drug courts, jails, probation departments, drug testing in the field," Rizzo said. "We've had a number of people who would never access treatment, but because there's been an initial push by the criminal justice system, they have gotten into treatment because they've been mandated.”

While in-patient admissions have gone up at most drug and alcohol treatment facilities, the out-patient census has dropped at some.

A Renewed Mind reports a 20 percent drop in its out-patient population, while the Zepf Center has seen a 30 percent drop.

Zepf COO Lisa Richardson says a lot of patients are afraid to come into the facility because of the COVID-19 threat. In addition, the center now does its counseling using telehealth and not everyone has access to technology.

“A lot of people have reduced minutes on their cell phones. Some people don't have internet access. So they can't connect remotely to a group,” said Richardson.

As the courts and jails reopen after the COVID-19 shutdown, the recovery community worries that county and city budget cuts may continue to hinder their ability to connect to people who need treatment.

“I’m concerned about cuts with probation departments, with drug courts, with county departments that play a vital role in supporting treatment,” Rizzo said.