Juvenile Court judge fights to get drug treatment earlier for kids

County officials are pushing harder than ever to catch more kids before they become a when it comes to drug overdoses. (WKEF/WRGT)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) –Names, faces, and stories, sit in a pile on the bench.

"When I go to the funerals, I pick these up," said Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi, holding up the funeral program of a young man who died.

Capizzi runs the largest drug treatment court in Ohio. The pages he keeps in a neat stack near his gavel are a painful reminder.

"The one young man, this one that overdosed in his backyard, he was the valedictorian at treatment court, and that's him speaking at the graduation ceremony," he said, holding up another picture. "Then he died a year later."

Capizzi is pushing harder than ever to catch more kids before they become a statistic when it comes to drug overdoses. The overdose of 13-year-old Nathan Wylie was part of the sudden shift across the country from adults to teens and even younger when it comes to deadly drug use. He says since September, four people who have been through his court overdosed and died.

"I tell the kids all the time, they don't believe it's going to be them," he said.

He told FOX 45’s Shavon Anderson it’s heartbreaking, and believes the county can do more to help. About five years ago, he said none of his kids were on heroin, and now it’s up to 15 percent, with kids 14, 15 and 16 testing positive for heroin. He said there are several residential centers for adults, but zero for children. That means he’s left sending them to other cities, or even out of state. But without the ability to keep them local and work with the entire family, when those kids come back, they fall into the same cycle.

“If we have treatment centers for adults, why don’t we have any for children?” Capizzi said. “If we take care of them when they’re children, we may not need them when they’re adult facilities. So the logic is there and I think my sell to the community is paying off.”

He’s been working on a proposal for months, and said it’s an expensive proposition, but he’s optimistic county leaders are listening and that plans could develop soon.

Capizzi says with the kids, it's more than just drug issues.

"They have mental health issue because they've seen such trauma as a child," he said.

Through his court, many kids have seen domestic abuse, are homelessness, or see their own families use drugs at home. That's why he said it's crucial for the program to bridge the need for both addiction and mental health.

"It makes it more complicated, but we're trying to save kids here," said Capizzi.

Capizzi started family treatment court last fall, and says it's been successful, but he says there's still a need for women-only facilities because of the rising rate of female addiction.

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