Judge gives addicts second chance with treatment program

By KEN DE LA BASTIDE

of The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — Addiction can be a downward spiral for individuals and families, but through a unique relationship between a local judge and therapist the addicts are being given a second chance.
Since 2009, Madison Circuit Court Division 3 Judge Thomas Newman Jr. and local therapist Maxine Cook have been providing treatment to keep criminal offenders from returning to incarceration.
“When David Hopper died in 2009, he was the Drug Court judge and they needed somebody to take over the court,” Newman said. “I like to see things and try to make them better. The Drug Court was working pretty good, but I could see some areas that needed to be changed.
“We would have staff meetings before Drug Court and talk about the individual cases,” he said. “Information is key to these situations because you have to deal with people on a timely basis.”
Newman said Drug Court was using a local facility to do its treatment and there was not a good exchange of information.
“I was frustrated by it,” he said. “These people weren’t paying their bills, so the provider wouldn’t provide services. So the people were out of compliance. It was dysfunctional.”
Newman asked the Drug Court staff if there was an alternative to keep up-to-date information and the recommendation was to hire an in-house therapist.
Cook, who was working at the Crestview Center, was hired to be the in-house therapist and her business, Integrity Recovery Services, was eventually approved by the state.
Newman has Cook do substance abuse evaluations for many defendants coming through his court for drug-related offenses.
She meets for several hours with the people being considered for a court-approved treatment program.
“What I usually do at the start is ask the individual why they are in trouble,” Cook said, “what they were doing and with whom.”
Cook asks them about their education, health, legal history and any prior treatment. The questions cover addictions to gambling, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.
“How old were you when you started abusing, tells me a lot,” she said. “Most answer they started between the ages of 12 and 14.
“If we can get kids through high school, there is a better chance of achieving a better lifestyle,” Cook said. “The younger they start, the harder it is to get them to stop. This is what they think their life is like.”
Having been a therapist for 40 years, Cook has a good idea of what treatment will be helpful after meeting with the person for several hours and completing the questionnaire.
“These kids are lost. They don’t have a supportive family or the family uses drugs,” she said. “I determine what treatment they had in the past. How much time has passed since the previous treatment and what has been going on since then.”
The judge reviews Cook’s substance abuse evaluation and her recommendation.
“Sometimes we recommend they be sent to Turning Point in New Albany, which is a state-funded program,” Newman said. “It’s a 30-day intense program. I’ve seen dramatic changes.”
Once that intense program is completed, Newman said, the person has to comply with the treatment program developed by Cook to be released from incarceration.
For those people sentenced to the Indiana Department of Correction, many times Newman recommends the “Purposeful Incarceration” program.
“If they successfully complete the program I have to conduct a hearing,” he said. “If the report is positive we can modify their sentence.”
Newman said he was concerned about people returning from the Department of Correction and asked Cook to develop a support group, which meets weekly for two hours.
“Maxine (Cook) has a unique capability to connect with these people,” he said. “They trust her. She is not going to give up on anyone because she knows what is possible.”
Cook said since the first of the year only one person has returned to the Department of Correction.
“It’s all kinds of stuff,” she said of the addictions, “but young people don’t use alcohol. If they’re using heroin I want to see their arms and ask the last time they abused drugs.
“When you sit face to face with someone for several hours you build a relationship,” Cook said.