SIDNEY — Calling it a landmark day, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart officially opened the new Star House Wednesday afternoon. The Sheriff’s Treatment and Recover (STAR) House is located within the shadows of the Shelby County Jail, 555 Gearhart Road.
“This landmark building will provide lots of opportunities for the people who need help,” said Lenhart.
Lenhart lauded the efforts of LT. Cori Steiner, Sgt. Karla Pleiman and STAR House Director Shannon Byers for all their hard work for making the treatment center a reality.
“Over five years ago, we in the Sheriff’s Office recognized that we could not arrest our way out of the worst drug epidemic (opiates) that I had every seen in my career,” said Lenhart. “The jails are full, the deaths from overdoses continues and every segment of society is being affected.
“When inmates got out of jail, within days and sometimes hours, they are back using drugs. Women are being incarcerated at a rate that was never seen before in the criminal justice system. Parents are losing custody of their children — that in many cases — they will never get back.:
Ohio, said Lenhart, is the ranked second in the nation in the drug addiction problems.
“We asked state and federal elected officials for help — and quite honestly — we received none. I learned years ago: do not depend on the state or federal government for help as it would be a waste of time. Sgt. Pleiman and Lt. Steiner suggested that we start to help work with addicts, drying them out, get counseling and working with industries and businesses, to get them jobs.”
Over the past 4 1/2 years, said Lenhart, 12 to 15 inmates have ridden their bicycles to and from work.
“The problem is when they get released they go back to the same living area where they had been getting drugs. There is not enough halfway houses to help. If you have money and insurance you can find treatment but if you and your family do not, your chances of getting help are very slim.”
Lenhart said he contacted the federal government about using FEMA trailers to for the program.
“They were not interested in getting trailers to us,” said Lenhart. “Our personnel did not give up. They thought outside of the box and showed real leadership and determination.”
In the midst of the building project, he said, House Bill 129 was approved and capital money for the project was received.
“What you see before you is the results. A $1 million porject built with no local tax levy,” said Lenhart.
Lenhart left the crowd with a final thought — a quote from Winston Churchill. “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts!
Mark McDaniel, executive director of the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services, shared his thoughts on the completion of the STAR House.
McDaniel said a date in December 2014 was the red letter day when it came to the future of STAR House.
“NEO Med (Northeast Ohio Medical University) came down for a mapping exercise with all the players involved,” said McDaniel. “They looked at how our services intersected and came up with a number of recommendations for us to pursue.
“The one important one — MATT — was recommended and we followed up on it,” he said.
MATT is a Medication Assistance Treatment Team, which the staff at the Shelby County Jail embraced 100 percent.
“STAR House is a tremendous team for MATT,” said McDaniel. “We’re here to break the cycle, piece by piece,. STAR House will help break the (drug abuse) cycle.”
Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann told the crowd that by speaking third, she’ll be repeating some of what has already been said.
“Within days we will have residents here working on their sobriety programs and developing the skills and assets necessary to live independent productive lives in our community,” she said.
The successful road to recovery include counseling, peer support, medication assisted treatment, employment and housing.
“While Shelby County has been working on these elements, we have been severely lacking in the housing component.”
STAR House, she said, will fill a need in the county.
“The STAR House is a program complete with life skills training, counseling and peer support,” she said. “It is a safe place for persons to continue their medication assisted treatment, and it will be their home to come to after a day at work until they have the necessary resources to live independently.
“I am so excited for the individuals that will get the opportunity to live in the STAR House,” said Ehemann. “However, with opportunity comes responsibility. The residents of STAR House will have already been engaging in some of the programs while in the jail, and they will have been informed of the House’s requirements before being accepted.
“They will find a rigorous program here and, after their successful completion of the program, I am hopeful they will have found it to be just one of the stops that help them to find their personal life success.”
Ehemann said the inmates’ success will also be the Sidney and Shelby County communities’ success.
“Let us all pray that the STAR House is just one tool that helps Shelby County move away from the drug abuse that has plagued our community ans our entire country for almost a decade,” she said.
A welcoming prayer was given by Pastor Chad Wilson of the Church of the Nazarene. Lenhart also acknowledge his friend of 48 years, Newell Moore, who helped bring the Gideon Bible jail ministry program into the jail for the inmates.
“On behalf of the men and women who worked at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, I would like to thank the many people tho made this possible.”
Lenhart recognized the Shelby County Commissioners, McDaniel, Judges Jim Stevenson, Duane Goettemoeller and Jeff Beigel, Magistrate Gary Carter, the Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services, United Way, Altrusa, AGAPE, Shelby County Job and Family Services, Ohio Means Jobs, Upper Valley Career Center, Ohio State Extension Office, Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell, Family Resource Center, County Engineer Bob Geuy, County Treasurer John Coffield and many private donors.
The contractor for the project was Westerheide Construction, which “brought the project in on time and on budget,” said Lenhart, Garmann/Miller Architects, Low Voltage and Sturm Construction.
The director of STAR House is Shannon Byers. Cassie Noe and Jon Dearbaugh provide peer support. Rachel Wells is the recovery coordinator. Tracy Kies and Jace Hooker are recovery assistants.
“I’m super excited,” said Byers. “This has been a dream of mine.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony officially opened STAR House, which was held with the assistance of the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.