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Posted on August 18, 2017 at 1:53 PM by Jennifer Ambrose
Destruction of families. Incarceration. Unstable housing and homelessness. Rock bottom.
“My kids were already gone and out of my care when I got my third drunk driving [offense],” said an emotional Erin Carr. “So clearly, even having my children taken from me wasn’t enough to get me sober.”
Erin participated in and graduated from the Lenawee County Sobriety Court. Since completing the program, Erin has retained custody of her children, gotten married, and maintained a full-time job. She is doing remarkably better than before she went into the program, and is now a productive, flourishing member of the community.
Every day, we interact with people whose lives have been devastated by alcohol, drugs, and mental illness. Often, those who have been living their lives in chaos turn to crime to feed their habits: stealing, drug offenses, or driving under the influence.
In the past, criminal offenses like these have been handled through the traditional court system. This had resulted in lengthy jail or prison time, the removal of children from their homes, increased contact with law enforcement, joblessness, and homelessness for those involved with the criminal justice system. In the last two decades or so, a new approach has been applied to these instances and has resulted in drastically reduced recidivism: the specialty court program.
Lenawee County has three specialty court programs: Sobriety Court, Drug Court, and Enhanced Treatment Court for those with mental illness. The purpose of specialty courts like those in Lenawee County is to allow offenders whose crimes stem from alcohol, drugs, or mental illness to have a chance to improve their lives and become healthy members of the community again. These specialty courts are treatment-based programs, rather than incarceration-based, and have proven to be highly successful in reducing recidivism, relapse, and jail costs.
“Lenawee County continues to invest in specialty court programs because they are effective,” said County Administrator Martin Marshall. “They have proven to produce high success rates, increased rehabilitation, and a reduction in jail costs for the County.”
When detained offenders meet certain criteria, they are offered placement into one of the specialty courts. By agreeing to participate in one of the specialty court programs, they are entering an intensive treatment program led by a team of professionals including a judge. Participants receive group and individual counseling services, partake in 12 step programs, and regularly visit the court’s probation officer.
As the participants make their way through the program, they move through a set of phases by meeting all the requirements established by the court. These requirements can include restitution payments, community service, and participation in treatment programs. People typically take two or four years to graduate from the program, reporting substantial sober time as well as positive growth in most areas of their lives.
“Sobriety Court’s success rate [in Lenawee County] is as of right now, we’ve had 119 people successfully complete the program and we’ve had one person relapse,” explained Heidi Cannon, Lenawee County sobriety court probation officer. “And we’ve been going strong for five years.”
According to Heidi, the structure, support, meetings with the judge, and seeing the other side of the court system are what make the specialty court programs successful.
“I often tell people, if you’re not succeeding, we’re not succeeding,” said Heidi. “I want them to truly get that and believe that.”
With her hand on Erin’s back, Heidi encouraged her to communicate to others how far she has come and how productive she has been now that she has completed Sobriety Court. Through her tears, Erin expressed her gratitude for the program and just how far she’s come.
“I have four kids; I got married and gained four more kids,” Erin explained. “I have had a job for three and a half years. I was hired there when I was six months sober. I have Heidi that I can still call at any time. I’m also speaking with my brother again; he hadn’t spoken to me for about a year and a half.
“I felt very alone, for a long time,” Erin continued. “When I got into sobriety court I felt like I had a support system that allowed me to work on me. If it were just up to Child Protective Services, I truly believe I would have never gotten my children back; I would have never gotten sober. And it was all because of Sobriety Court.”
Heidi clarified that without these specialty court programs, the Lenawee County community would be flooded with people without jobs, their children, or drivers’ licenses. The community would be filled with people who are constantly reoffending and having contact with law enforcement. The courts and judicial system would become overloaded.
“Some of them with felonies, some of them in prison, not getting services, and not being with their families,” explained Heidi. “I think that would be a huge disservice to our community.”
Posted on August 4, 2017 at 2:35 PM by Jennifer Ambrose
It’s the middle of the night. Your eyes fly open and you sit up in bed, listening. What was that sound? Maybe you hear glass break or your car alarm startles you awake. Somewhere down your dark country road, a dog starts to bark. Your heart is racing as you lean over to reach for the phone to call for help.
Or maybe you are driving home from work one evening. The sun is shining brightly and you are listening to your favorite new song on the radio. The next thing you know, another car darts out in front of you. Between the sun glare and the short reaction time, you are unable to avoid a collision. A pedestrian on the street witnesses the crash and takes out her phone to call for help.
Of course, no one plans to have an emergency, but these frightening scenarios can happen to anyone. The most important elements of any emergency are how quickly your call for help is answered and subsequently, the length of time it takes for emergency services to respond. It can mean the difference between life and death.
In Lenawee County, where more than half of the population live in rural areas, the Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol Division is responsible for responding to emergency calls whenever they are needed. Not only do they patrol the areas of the County without a dedicated police presence, the Lenawee County Road Patrol also assists the officers in the cities and townships with their own police departments.
The ability of the road patrol to respond to all emergency calls throughout the County, particularly in those areas without their own police departments, reinforces to residents that their calls will be answered and help will be on the way. This can provide a feeling of safety, while potentially deterring crime.
When the Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol division responds to assist the police officers of the smaller communities around the County it allows for these municipal police departments to respond more quickly and handle larger, more complicated cases by lending an expertise that smaller agencies may not have.
“If we were unable to respond to the calls of the community, those instances of car crashes, domestic violence, or assaults, could go unreported,” said Deputy Casey Opsal. “And unfortunately, unreported violent offenses have the potential to escalate to homicide. Our presence in the county helps to prevent the rise of violent crimes.”
It’s the response to these calls, regardless of the level of danger involved, that speaks to the dedication of the Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol. Whether it’s a motor vehicle crash on a County road or assisting a township law enforcement department in handling a serious crime by lending support, the deputies of the Road Patrol Division are committed to protecting and serving the residents of Lenawee County.
“We could have several cases going on at once,” said Officer Michael Samoray of the Hudson Police Department. “Without the County [Sheriff Road Patrol], we would have to rely on neighboring communities to respond, and that could take 15 minutes or more. When the Road Patrol responds, it benefits both the local community and the surrounding areas.”
Dedication is the Heart of the Sheriff’s Office
Early one fall morning in 2014, a call came into the Lenawee County Central Dispatch. When the dispatcher took the call, no one answered her but she could hear someone moaning. Although accidental calls come into Central Dispatch regularly, this dispatcher’s instincts told her this was a real emergency, prompting her to send two deputies to investigate.
When the deputies arrived at the Raisin Township address they discovered the house was on fire. As they moved toward the rear of the structure, they could hear someone calling for help from inside. It was then one of the deputies entered the burning building and crawled toward the voice. He found the victim roughly six feet inside the back door and grabbed the man’s foot to pull him to safety.
While most civilians would not dare to run into a burning building, the actions of the two deputies exemplify the dedication of the men and women who work for the Sheriff’s Office. Regardless of which division, the deputies and staff are completely committed to doing their jobs and protecting the residents of Lenawee County at all costs.
“We have a dedicated staff and this is a tough job,” said Lenawee County Sheriff Jack Welsh. “This can be a dangerous job and yet our people continue to go out there every day and do their job. Their dedication shows; they never waiver whether we’re shorthanded or we’re fully staffed. This is a great staff.”
Posted on July 24, 2017 at 1:28 PM by Jennifer Ambrose
Throughout life, meeting friends who turn into family are some of the most fulfilling relationships one can have. That best friend from elementary school, your roommate from college, the next-door neighbor raising kids alongside you. Later in life, the time can come when those family-like friends aren’t there anymore. Sometimes that can be lonely.
For seniors in Lenawee County, their local senior center is a place they can go to meet new people and develop those family-like bonds with others in their region of the county. The directors of the senior centers in Lenawee County recognize the importance of these deep connections between their seniors.
“It’s a family atmosphere,” said Dee Hall, director of the Addison Senior Center. “It’s a smaller center so they’re more like a family. They eat together and they get to play cards together.”
Spending time with other people give these folks the opportunity to speak and be heard, says Heather Barker, director of the Adrian Senior Center. “A common thread in the senior community is that they’re lonely. They’ve lost a spouse, or a partner, or a sister, and they’re really looking for a place to come to enjoy speaking again.”
Studies have shown that seniors who engage with their peers can reduce the risk of developing cognitive disorders such as dementia. In 2008, the American Journal of Public Health published a study of 2,249 older women in California. Researchers reported that those with larger social networks were 26 percent less likely to develop dementia and those with daily contact with family and friends cut their likelihood by half, according to AARP.
The home delivered meals program is a way for seniors who are unable to go out to receive a meal every day to have some interaction with someone from outside of their world. The person who drops off the meal does a well-being check on the senior, which can alleviate some worry for their family members who may not be able to check in on them during the day.
“Our home delivered meals program is so important to our center because when we deliver meals each day, sometimes those are the first and the only people that those seniors see in a day, or even in a week,” said Addison Senior Center Director Hall.
“Home-bound meals help with nutrition issues [seniors face],” said Turi Meining, director of the Hudson Senior Center. “And they provide interaction with the people who deliver the meals. They get to see someone.”
Seniors who stay active are also less likely to develop pathological changes in the brain that could lead to cognitive impairment, according to AARP. The Journal of American Medical Association reported on a clinical study in September 2008 that found that exercise, especially when combined with social interaction, is believed to “stimulate the formation of brain synapses, enhance blood flow to the brain and increase the formation of nerve cells.”
The senior centers in Lenawee County understand the importance of fitness in the lives of seniors. The Adrian Senior Center, located in the old high school of St. Mary’s church, is fortunate to have a full-sized gym for seniors to use.
“The full-sized gym affords us to provide a lot more fitness opportunities,” said Adrian Senior Center Director Barker.
Group fitness classes such as Tai Chi, focuses on coordination and fall-prevention; cardio drumming promises to “release stress, sweat, sing, and enjoy a sense of community, all while exercising;” Zumba Gold, which is a lower impact, “Latin-inspired dance fitness party.” Fitness equipment is always available, for those who prefer more traditional fitness training.
Seniors also tend to have more medical issues than the younger population. Making it to medical appointments that can be critical to their health can pose a problem for seniors that don’t drive. The volunteer transportation program available through the Lenawee Department on Aging (LDA) is a much-needed resource for seniors.
The volunteer transportation program transports Lenawee County seniors to medical appointments both in Lenawee County and outside of it, said Amy Young, transportation coordinator.
“Many of them, especially the dialysis patients, wouldn’t have another way to get to those appointments,” said Young. “You think about medical appointments being really necessary as you get older. A lot of people don’t have drivers’ licenses anymore. We also have a wheelchair van so we can take clients who are in wheelchairs to their medical appointments.”