Judge Gysegem makes plea to council

Wants to administer medication to drug users

WARREN — A Warren Municipal Court judge is asking city council to support his effort to make addiction-suppressing medications a part of a substance user’s probation by creating a new position in the court.

The new hire would be the coordinator for the medical assistance treatment program and would require some funding approval from council, but would also be funded with money from the court, said Judge Thomas P. Gysegem. The salary for the proposed position has not been determined.

Treatment with medication has proven to be more effective than abstinence-only programs, Gysegem said Monday to city council after a presentation from Dr. Martina Moore, president and CEO of Moore Counseling and Mediation Services, Inc., which operates a program in Cuyahoga County through the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.

People who are addicted to opioids like heroin and many prescription pain medications are better able to treat their addiction with treatment and counseling after taking medications to suppress the desire and effect of opioids, Moore said.

“We provide the treatment. The medication is just a bridge to the treatment. The treatment is the largest component. And it is the piece that works the best in all of it. The medication is there to help relieve cravings, to get a person to the point where they feel motivated to come to treatment, to help them with the withdrawal symptoms. That is all the medication does. It is not a miracle. The miracle comes in the interactions that we are able to do in therapy with the client,” Moore said.

The success rate of people staying in recovery in Cuyahoga County is about 60 percent, compared to an average of 30 percent nationwide, since implementation of the program, Moore said. Cuyahoga County also started using non-traditional case managers who stay in touch with clients over years to check in and offer assistance as the person rebuilds his / her life, Moore said.

There is still a stigma associated with using a drug to treat an addiction to a drug, Gysegem said, but that stigma is based on myths and misinformation.

With the number of people coming into the jail with addiction-related crimes and with the high numbers of opioid-related deaths, something needs to be done despite the stigma, Gysegem said.

“This is a crisis. People are dying,” Gysegem said.

The expansion of Medicaid, or an individual’s private insurance, will cover most of the costs to treat people in the program, but there are also grants to be found, Moore said.

Gysegem said the coordinator would work with the probation department and the court to run the program.