Ottawa County Sheriff backs Kuhlman for District Court of Appeals

As Sheriff of Ottawa County, I have taken an oath to not only protect and serve my community, but also to ensure that like-minded people are placed into positions of trust. That is why I am voting Joel Kuhlman for Judge of the 6th District Court of Appeals. I have known Joel’s family my entire life. Joel’s father was a couple of years ahead of me at Eastwood High School, and his Uncle is married into our family. These men are of the highest integrity, exhibiting the leadership values that our youth will learn from for generations to come. Joel’s upbringing was instrumental in his receiving dual degrees from the University of Toledo (Engineering and Law), as well as his community work that he has already accomplished at a young age. Joel served as a Bowling Green City Councilman, as well as Wood County Commissioner. The integrity engrained in Joel through the family values he was taught from a young age will remain with him throughout his adult life. Therefore, it will also be evident through his service to our community as Judge within the 6th District Court of Appeals. Service to our community is of highest priority to me. And through recent conversations with Joel, I have confirmed that he feels just as strongly about putting service to his community ahead of his own needs. Please join me on November 6th in casting a vote for Joel Kuhlman as Judge, 6th District Court of Appeals. All of the 6th District should be represented in our Court of Appeals, not just Toledo and its immediate suburbs, which is the present case. I believe that a vote for Joel is a vote for our future. Thank you, Stephen J. Levorchick

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Vivitrol helps jump start recovery for opiate addicts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Travis Williams knows that without Vivitrol, opiate addicts who just went through detox are likely to start using again as soon as their buddies pick them up at jail. “They overdose before they ever leave the parking lot,” Williams said. But he also knows that using Vivitrol can take away the cravings and the highs that cause many opiate addicts to relapse an average of seven times. “You might as well take a tic-tac,” since it will provide the same high as opiates do while on Vivitrol, Williams said during a meeting last week in Wood County about recovering from opiates. Attending the meeting were those who deal with the local addicts in the courts, law enforcement, public health and social services. In June of 2016, Vivitrol shots were started in Wood County Justice Center for opiate addicts who want to quit. Since then, 34 inmates have received their first shots in jail, which were then followed up with monthly shots and counseling on the outside. Northwest Community Corrections Center has a similar program. “We are working on a definition of success, but as of June of 2017 we have 21 people who we feel are still compliant with the program,” said Doug Cubberley, chief probation officer and court administrator at Bowling Green Municipal Court. “Only two people have gone out and reoffended by committing new crimes.” Cubberley remembers the day a man came to his court probation office begging to go to jail. “We had one young man come to our office who said, ‘If I don’t go to jail, I’m going to die.’” The man was addicted to opiates and knew it was only a matter of time till he overdosed, Cubberley said last year. Probation workers in Wood County began noticing in 2014 that something was killing their clients. “They were dying at alarming rates,” Cubberley said. So the conversation started about opiates and their growing grasp on people of all ages and backgrounds. “We all wanted to think it was only in Cleveland or Toledo,” he said. But it was clearly here, too. So leaders in the police, court and drug treatment professions started looking for a solution. Community meetings on the opiate epidemic were held in Bowling Green, Perrysburg and North Baltimore. Statistics show the highest rate of accidental overdose occurs when an addict leaves jail or a treatment program, Cubberley said. “Once they are in jail, they lose tolerance to opiates.” And that often leads to deadly results. So Project Direct Link is intended to offer opiate addicts a different course. The program gives inmates an injection of Vivitrol, a drug that helps prevent cravings and doesn’t allow them to feel the positive effects of opiates. The injection lasts 28 days, which gives the person a “safety net” until they are linked up with treatment programs. Williams, of Alkermes Inc., covers his company’s Vivitrol programs in Ohio, Kentucky Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. “I’m in the hotbed of addictions,” he said last week. Williams is not a reformed opiate addict, so he can’t speak from the seat of those using Vivitrol. However, he can speak for the family members who watch addicts destroy their lives and the lives of those who love them. “I do know…

County prosecutor sets up opiate response team

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has its first employees assigned specifically to battle the opiate crisis. Sixteen people died of opiate overdoses in the county last year, according to the Wood County Coroner’s Office. In response to a survey of local first responders, 16 departments said they responded to 83 opiate overdoses last year, and administered the life-saving drug Naloxone 60 times. And in an 18-month period, the county prosecutor’s office saw about 130 drug cases. Getting addicts in treatment, and getting them back after relapses are important, Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said during a meeting with the county commissioners. The average person experiences seven relapses during their three to five years of trying to get free of opiates. On Tuesday, Dobson and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn announced the implementation of a new program in the prosecutor’s office to battle the opiate and drug epidemic. The program has been named the Addiction Response Collaborative, or ARC. Earlier this year, Dobson – who lost a stepson to opiate addiction – introduced his four-tiered plan for dealing with the opiate epidemic in Wood County. The plan called for the creation of a quick response team, a pre-trial diversion program in the prosecutor’s office, an intervention in lieu of sentencing program in the courts, and the establishment of a drug docket in the courts. The program team includes a Drug Addiction and Abuse Response Coordinator hired by the prosecutor’s office through funding from the Wood County Commissioners, the Wood County ADAMHS Board, and the Wood County Health District. Filling the position is Luckey resident Belinda Brooks, who knows from experience the horrors of opiate addictions and the hopes for recovery. Brooks, whose daughter battled opiates for several years, formed SOLACE of Northwest Ohio, a group that provides services for family members of addicts. Her daughter, now 25, was first prescribed percocets after a serious ATV accident seven years ago. It wasn’t long till she was addicted. Brooks, who knew nothing about opiates, believed it couldn’t be that bad since it was a prescribed medication. She soon saw how horrible it could be. Brooks learned that by hiding the addiction and helping her daughter clean up money problems, she was fueling her daughter’s addiction. “It was three years of complete hell,” Brooks said. “Your lives change forever. You have to change your parenting.” Her daughter’s rock bottom came when she was charged with nine felony counts in Toledo. Brooks cut ties with her daughter and took over raising her grandson. She remembers the words she told her daughter that day. “I love you. But I’m done. Don’t ever call me again unless you’re in treatment.” Her daughter went to jail and they did not speak for six months. It’s now been almost two years since she has been clean. But as a parent, Brooks knows relapse could be right around the corner. “I worry every day,” she said. “The destruction it causes is devastating,” resulting in many aging grandparents taking over care of their grandchildren. Dobson said Brooks was a perfect fit for the new position. “Belinda has been passionately advocating on behalf of this population for years,” Dobson said in the press release. “She’s really already been doing this job without a title or funding….

Nexus pipeline offers BG $80,000 to cross city land

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Earlier this month, Nexus pipeline officials filed a lawsuit against all holdout property owners. Bowling Green was one of those communities that had refused to grant the pipeline an easement to cross its land. This time around, the pipeline company was armed with eminent domain. On Oct. 11, Bowling Green agreed to a magistrate’s order to join in settlement discussions. And on Friday, the city received an offer of nearly $80,000 from Nexus to cross city-owned land in Middleton Township. “They were granted eminent domain powers. Now they’re exercising it,” said Bowling Green City Attorney Mike Marsh. But local pipeline protesters see it differently. They see it as the city selling out. “This morning we checked court records and found that on October 11 Mike Marsh silently signed away the city’s easement rights to Nexus pipeline,” Lisa Kochheiser stated. “The city has betrayed citizens’ trust and has scandalously kept it to themselves.” Last December, Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously to not grant as easement for the Nexus pipeline. Concerns were expressed about the pipeline route running just 700 feet from the city’s reservoir at the water treatment plant. “They have failed to inform the public that they aren’t willing to stand up for the will of the people,” Kochheiser continued. But Marsh said the city and other holdout landowners across the state have lost to eminent domain. All that remains to be determined is the dollar amount that will be paid. “We’re all under orders to try to negotiate settlements by Nov. 3,” he said. City officials have yet to discuss the $80,000 offer. “The real issue now is compensation.” However, Kochheiser and attorney Terry Lodge pointed out that the village of Waterville continues to refuse compliance with the Nexus lawsuit. “The Village of Waterville has denied compliance with the Nexus lawsuit and is standing up for the rights of residents who passed their charter amendment prohibiting pipelines last year,” Kochheiser stated. Waterville legal director Phil Dombey instead filed a reply, claiming that the village’s local charter amendment forbids the community from consenting. Marsh said Waterville isn’t allowed to enter into negotiations because of its charter amendment. Marsh added that Bowling Green did not give in on granting an easement. “There’s been no grant of an easement,” he said. But since the pipeline has been given eminent domain powers, the city isn’t fighting it. “We’re not contesting their ability to condemn the property,” Marsh said. According to Lodge, Bowling Green’s action has given Nexus the ability to start construction on city-owned property. “The City of BG has expressly consented to  immediate possession – that is, Nexus can commence this moment to build across the BG land,” Lodge stated. “Immediate possession is a point of law that is being disputed by Oberlin and certainly Waterville and other property owners along the way, and the cases are divided on whether immediate possession is constitutional.  Mike Marsh and the mayor have executed a complete and total laydown, without mentioning it publicly. This was deliberate, in order to make the charter amendment moot. It won’t, but it will not be surprising to see trenching and intense activity happening along this part of the Nexus route sooner than might otherwise have been the situation.  By consenting…

After losing stepson to overdose, Dobson offers hope to others

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The horror of the opiate epidemic is not some distant tragedy for Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson. “Last year, 14 months ago, I lost my stepson to this crap – opiates,” he said Tuesday to the Wood County Commissioners. His stepson, who was 37 when he died of an overdose in Colorado last year, had struggled with opiates, recovered, then relapsed. As part of treatment, he went through an Ohio Means Jobs program in Toledo, which gave him an opportunity to go to University of Toledo, where he earned certification. The program gave him gas cards, a lap top computer and helped with car repairs. “They were taking away every excuse to fail,” Dobson said. But eventually, his stepson – who moved to Denver for a job – overdosed and died. “He couldn’t let the ‘dragon’ go,” Dobson said. Though his stepson was ultimately not helped with intense programming, Dobson is hoping that others will be. “There’s always hope. My faith doesn’t allow for me to not have hope,” he said. According to the Wood County Coroner’s Office, 16 people died of opiate overdoses in the county last year. In response to a survey of local first responders, 16 departments said they responded to 83 opiate overdoses last year, and administered the life-saving drug Naloxone 60 times. And in the last 18 months, the county prosecutor’s office has seen about 130 drug cases. Dobson presented this hopes to the county commissioners Tuesday in the form of a four-tiered plan for dealing with the opiate epidemic in Wood County. The plan calls for the creation of a quick response team, a pre-trial diversion program in the prosecutor’s office, an intervention in lieu of sentencing program in the courts, and the establishment of a drug docket in the courts. But in order to put this program in motion, Dobson first needs a grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for $150,000 over two years. And in order to get that grant, he first had to convince the county commissioners to agree that they will foot the bill after the grant funding runs out if the program proves to be successful. Lucas County already has its DART (Drug Abuse Response Team) program in place. That program provides immediate responses to calls about opiate drug abuse. “At 2 o’clock in the morning, they have somebody ready to head out” to a home, hospital or hotel to try to get the addict hooked up the treatment, Dobson said. Wood County’s program will be different, he explained. The program will set up a quick response team that will respond within 24 hours of getting a call from families, first responders or hospitals that an addict needs help. “There’s no way we can fund having people on staff 24 hours,” he said. If the grant is approved, the sheriff’s office has agreed to assign one full-time deputy to Dobson’s office. That deputy will focus solely on responding to reports of opiate abuse. The program will need a second staff member – a drug addiction and response coordinator. That person will talk with the deputy and line up services the addict needs – such as an evaluation, bed in a treatment center, or help from Job and Family Services….

Crime victims’ rights law in Ohio raises objections

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In November, Ohioans will vote on Marsy’s Law – a ballot measure intended to strengthen victims’ rights in the state. On the surface, the law seems to offer reasonable protections to crime victims. But on Tuesday, when the Wood County Commissioners were asked to join other officials across the state supporting Marsy’s Law, they heard strong reservations about the law from Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson. Marsy’s Law is named after a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in the 1980s. A week after her murder, Marsy’s family was confronted in public by her ex-boyfriend, who had been released on bail without the family being notified. Marsy’s brother has made it a mission to get the victims’ rights law passed in states. So far, California, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana have adopted the law, according to Emily Hunter, who is the Northwest Ohio field director for the effort to pass Marsy’s Law in Ohio. The law, Hunter told the Wood County Commissioners, guarantees that victims of crimes are treated as well as the defendants. “This is making them equal to the rights of the accused,” she said. “Right now, we are seeing many victims re-victimized in the system.” Hunter said she herself is a survivor of sexual assault. “I’ve made it my mission to fight.” Marsy’s Law has been endorsed by several elected officials in the state, including the state attorney general, state auditor, several county prosecutors, the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, mayors and county commissioners. On Tuesday, Hunter asked the Wood County commissioners to add their endorsement to the law. But Dobson, also at the table, cautioned the commissioners. He said in a “close and difficult” vote, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association decided to not support the law. It isn’t that he doesn’t support victims’ rights, Dobson said. “We feel that victims’ rights are very important,” he said. However, Marsy’s Law spells out the rights in the state constitution, “where they essentially can’t be changed.” Marsy’s Law for Ohio grants the following rights: The right to be treated with respect, fairness and dignity throughout the criminal justice process. The right to information about the rights and services available to crime victims. The right to notification in a timely manner of major proceedings and developments in the case. The right to be present at court proceedings and provide input to a prosecutor before a plea deal is struck. The right to be heard at pleas or sentence proceedings or any process that may grant an offender’s release. The right to restitution. The wording of the law is problematic, Dobson said. For example, the law guarantees the right for the victim to be present at court proceedings. That seems reasonable, unless it conflicts with the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. If the law were to result in a conviction being overturned by a higher court, then it doesn’t serve its purpose, the county prosecutor said. “If the defendant goes free, what kind of justice is that?” Dobson agreed that Marsy’s Law addressed “valid issues,” that he has defended throughout his career. “You know I’ve been up here, talking about victims’ rights,” he said to the county commissioners. “My concern isn’t based on that victims are…

‘Coffee with CASAs’ event to inspire volunteers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The opiate epidemic has reached down into the youngest and most helpless members of Wood County. Just as Wood County Children’s Services is seeing more child abuse and neglect cases, the Wood County CASA program is seeing those growing numbers stretch their volunteers. The numbers have increased so much that some families are being turned away, according to Kathy Hicks, a volunteer member of the Friends of CASA Board. Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who advocate for the needs of children, and act as the voices of children in court, Hicks said. “So the court knows how the child feels,” she explained. “Kids don’t want to tattle on mom or dad.” The CASAs make home visits, speak in court on behalf of the children, and contact doctors, schools or other agencies to try to determine what is in the best interest of the children. The Wood County CASA program, with director Carol Fox, currently has 32 volunteer CASAs who are serving 45 families with a total of 90 children. The growing number of cases has led to about 10 families being turned away so far this year. Much of the increase is due to the opiate epidemic, Hicks said. “It is just amazing to me how many families have this drug problem. It prohibits them from taking care of their children,” she said. “That’s really sad.” The issues are often further complicated by multi-generational opiate problems. “It’s not just the parents. It’s the grandparents,” Hicks said. “Grandma and Grandpa can’t step in because they aren’t clean either.” So the children are often placed with foster families. In order to get more CASA volunteers so more children can be served, a “Coffee with CASAs” event is being held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Grounds for Thought in Bowling Green. Anyone who stops and chats with the CASA volunteers will be given a wooden nickel for a free cup of coffee from Grounds. “We want to get these families the help they need,” Hicks said. Volunteers CASAs will be on hand to explain what it takes to do the job. Volunteers must go through a training program, must pass a screening process, and must have “the desire to help people,” she said. Efforts have been made to streamline the training and volunteers are now allowed to work as a team. “They are in so much need,” Hicks said. Hicks, who previously worked as a CASA volunteer, said the work is difficult but worthwhile. “You can leave with the sense that you’ve helped a family, or put them on the right track,” she said. “It is very rewarding.” “Unfortunately, there’s just not enough to go around anymore,” she said of the volunteers. Anyone interested in the CASA program who cannot attend the Saturday event may call the CASA office out at the county juvenile court at 419-352-3554.