Youth celebrated for graduating from Juvenile Treatment Court program

Montgomery County area youth were recently celebrated for completing a treatment court program designed to help them become sober from drugs and alcohol, highlighting that children’s substance abuse is a problem here.

About 10 youth who graduated from the treatment court stood before Montgomery County Juvenile Judge Anthony Capizzi to receive a certificate and the judge talked about their progress through the juvenile justice system. Some youth were able to make it through the program without testing positive for substances, others spent days incarcerated and one spent more than a year.

“It’s not easy for them, I have fought with many of these young people in front of me for years,” Capizzi said. “But most of them get back to school when they weren’t going, they stop committing crime, they stop abusing drugs and they frankly start to maybe enjoy their family. And until they’re done that isn’t always the case.”

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The Montgomery County Juvenile Treatment Court program’s mission is to help young offenders who have been affected by drugs and alcohol. It provides supervised treatment and management, drug testing, community supervision as well as incentives and sanctions. Before a youth can graduate, he or she must follow rules at home, attend school daily, attend probation meetings, counseling sessions and hearings, as well as get a job depending on the youth’s age.

Overall, about 25 young people received recognition by the court because it didn’t hold large graduations since the start of the pandemic. Some of them were able to attend while others had obligations including one who was preparing to graduate high school.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County Addiction Services Senior Manager William C. Roberts II said prevention services are provided for families in Montgomery County, but kids using drugs and alcohol are still issues.

“Youth and addiction is a growing problem across the nation,” Roberts said.

He said parents and grandparents should be vigilant of their children and try to recognize substance abuse early on. Tristyn Ball, director of prevention and early intervention services at the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Board, said young people face stressors and can have a difficult time coping with them.

“This is something that we absolutely have to pay attention to because addiction is really just a symptom of a bigger issue,” Ball said, adding that it can be sign a of trauma or mental health issues.

“A lot of times when parents find out their child is using substances they feel really isolated and feel really scared,” Ball said. “And the thing is they’re not alone. There are support groups, there are other parents experiencing the same thing. Even if you think your child could be at risk of using substances or could be at risk of a mental health concern, we have all kinds of great programs within Montgomery County that parents can turn to.”

Montgomery County’s Get Help Now app is a source where people can find information, Ball said.

The graduation ceremony was emotional. Jon Green was the keynote speaker and talked about his experiences with addiction as a child. He told the youth graduating that he is happier sober than he ever was on drugs and hoped they would continue to live a substance-free life. Some of the youth who accepted certificates became emotional as the judge told them he was proud of their turnarounds.

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Capizzi mentioned several times that he was happy to see that the youth were alive, getting jobs or an education. He also said he was happy to see some returning students who graduated through the pandemic were still doing well.

Wendy Carter also spoke during the ceremony and said her daughter went through the program a few years ago. She told the Dayton Daily News afterward that having her daughter go through the program was hard, but because of the support and resources from the treatment court, they were able to get through it.

“We didn’t have to do it alone,” Carter said.

Carter said parents whose children are going through addiction should seek help immediately and not let it linger.

“I noticed the changes but I should have jumped in the very first time I saw something,” Carter said. “Don’t wait. I think sometimes ... you try to do it by yourself but don’t do that because it’s hard.”

Capizzi said that there are only about 300 juvenile treatment courts in the country. Carter said it hurt her feelings knowing there are so few and said that other jurisdictions should adopt the program.

“I feel our daughter would be dead if we were not connected to the resources through this program,” she said.

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