Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

‘Blunt, Real’ Drug Courts on Display at Documentary Screening

At the Palace Theatre in Marion, you see a charm that’s often overlooked throughout Ohio. Inside the beautiful building, you hear about an ugly truth of how drugs have stigmatized communities across the state, but also, about the good being done by those impacted by the epidemic.

“The fight goes on and we can never let our guard down when it comes to fighting addiction,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

That battle in the opioid and drug crisis was brought to light on the big screen in a documentary titled, “Second Chances: One Year in Ohio’s Drug Courts.” Produced by the Ohio Supreme Court, it followed three specialized dockets – Hocking County Municipal Court, Medina County Common Pleas Court, and Marion County Municipal Court Judge Theresa Ballinger’s “Making Accountability and Recovery Court.”

“My undergrad degree was in social work. So, my approach to a lot of things comes from that angle,” said Judge Ballinger.

The special screening – which was free and open to the public – was a way to enlighten citizens about what drug courts do and the struggle for those with substance use disorders. Perhaps, no person in the film displayed those difficulties more than Marion native Timi Dickason.

A self-described “chronic relapser” had been arrested repeatedly for drug offenses and had numerous stints in rehab before a misdemeanor theft charge landed her in Judge Ballinger’s court.

Along with Chief Justice O’Connor and Judge Ballinger, Dickason was part of a six-person panel after the feature to discuss their experiences with drug courts. During the question-and-answer portion, she credited the drug court staff with helping her understand all the levels of her addiction, which stems from a family that’s struggled with substance dependency.

“Being a part of this showed me that the people that I thought were against me, were really there to support me,” Dickason said. “I grew in huge ways that I will get to carry with me forever.”

As attendees inquired deeper into drug courts and the services they provide, one response illustrated that the rehabilitation process goes beyond the work of the criminal justice system, treatment teams, and those in recovery.

“Once a person puts all the work into getting sober and rebuilding a life, and they go into a community that doesn’t accept them or doesn’t acknowledge change, it sort of becomes a hollow victory and increases the rate of relapse,” said James Boleyn, Marion County Municipal Court’s special dockets coordinator.

“It’s not how we treat the best of ourselves and the healthiest of our population. It’s how we treat the most vulnerable, the most dependent, and those in need,” said Chief Justice O’Connor. “If we can’t do that, then what can we do?”