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Mount Vernon Municipal Court Judge John Thatcher.

MOUNT VERNON -- The Mandated Education and Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) Drug Court of the Mount Vernon Municipal Court has earned final certification from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Specialized Dockets.

In order to receive the certification, the local court had to submit an application, undergo a site visit, and provide specific program materials in response to certification standards that went in to effect in January 2014.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor congratulated the Mount Vernon Municipal Court and Judge John C. Thatcher for receiving final certification.

“Specialized dockets divert offenders toward criminal justice initiatives that employ tools and tailored services to treat and rehabilitate the offender so they can become productive members of society,” O’Connor said. “Studies have shown this approach works by reducing recidivism while saving tax dollars.”

Specialized dockets are courts that are dedicated to specific types of offenses or offenders and use a combination of different techniques for holding offenders accountable while also addressing the underlying causes of their behavior. There are more than 210 specialized dockets in Ohio courts that deal with issues such as:

• Drugs and Alcohol

• Mental Health

• Domestic Violence

• Human Trafficking

The standards provide a minimum level of uniform practices for specialized dockets throughout Ohio, and allow local courts to innovate and tailor to meet their community’s needs and resources.

“MERIT Court has been tremendously successful for the 80 individuals who have participated in the program since 2016, with a no relapse, no re-offense rate of 80% which is well above the 35% national average,” Thatcher said.

The certification requirements include establishing eligibility requirements, evaluating effectiveness of the specialized docket, and assembling a treatment team for implementing daily operations of the specialized docket. The team can include licensed treatment providers, law enforcement, court personnel, and is headed by the specialized docket judge.

The Commission on Specialized Dockets has 22 members who advise the Supreme Court and its staff regarding the promotion of statewide rules and uniform standards concerning specialized dockets in Ohio courts; the development and delivery of specialized docket services to Ohio courts; and the creation of training programs for judges and court personnel. The commission makes all decisions regarding final certification.

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