50-year-old mom credits Clermont County Family Recovery Court with helping her break heroin addiction

BATAVIA, OH — Just two years ago, life appeared bleak for Crystal Brittain, 50.

In July of 2017, her ex-husband (the father of her youngest daughter) died of an overdose.

A month later, she suffered a stroke.

Two months after that, she overdosed — and Children’s Protective Services removed her youngest daughter.

“My daughter tried to revive me,” said Crystal, who was addicted to heroin and alcohol for more than 15 years. “I woke up in an ambulance. A day or two later, the Quick Response Team came to see me at my house. That’s what got me to Clermont County Family Recovery Court.”

And the road to a much better life.

Clermont County’s Quick Response Team includes law enforcement, first responders and treatment professionals. Members work together to connect opioid users and their families to services following an overdose.

Family Recovery Court, a specialized docket under Judge James A. Shriver, emphasizes treatment over punishment. Requirements include attending frequent court hearings, Substance Use Disorder treatment, random and frequent drug screens, meetings with a case manager, calling and checking in regularly, attending AA or similar sober support activities and getting a sponsor or mentor, having income, establishing housing, taking care of criminal matters and getting a driver’s license.

Crystal entered the Family Recovery Court on Feb. 15, 2018, and graduated on Oct. 31, 2019.  She is now in the Exit Phase. This allows a participant to transition out of the program, but still have the support and accountability to maintain a new sober lifestyle. When everyone feels ready, Crystal will be brought in for one final hearing to be successfully discharged from the program.

“It’s an awesome program,” Crystal said. “I especially like the incentives, the certificates for being sober for a certain amount of time, gift cards for passing drug screenings and the like.”

Crystal has two sons and two daughters. The three oldest kids are adults. The youngest, a daughter, turns 18 on Nov. 20. While Crystal fulfilled her Children’s Protective Services case plan, her daughter lived with a foster family in Lima. Her daughter plans to study to become a social worker, with the help of a foundation that’s paying for her schooling.

Angie Livesay, the court’s coordinator, said Crystal overcame numerous obstacles.

For one, she was living in a house without water or access to resources. Family Recovery Court was able to connect Crystal with a landlord — and she moved into her very first apartment in July 2018, a residence that she has maintained since that time.

Crystal had many health issues that weren’t being addressed when she entered the program. Family Recovery Court helped Crystal establish healthcare services and now she makes sure she completes her preventative health screenings every year.

Also, Crystal learned how to budget money through classes at the OSU Extension Office and even continued the classes after fulfilling the requirement.

When she entered Family Recovery Court, Crystal was unable to drive. She would utilize Medicaid transportation, CTC busses and court staff to get to her doctor appointments, treatment appointments and sober support activities.

“If a ride wasn’t available, she would walk,” Livesay said. “She is very committed to making sure she attends every appointment on time. She never missed a court hearing, office visit, or drug screen while in our program. Crystal is now able to drive and even purchased a car on her own.”

Crystal proudly mentions her 150 negative drug screens. She speaks enthusiastically about attending recovery activities, even serving as chairperson at some.

“When Crystal entered our program, she had very little support,” Livesay said. “She quickly engaged herself in the sober support community attending several times a week. She has two ‘home groups’ she attends every week. Crystal had over 50 guests at her graduation and many of them were from her sober support community.”

Crystal has been on the Vivitrol injection for 20 months. She has been sober since Jan. 2, 2018.

“It really helps,” said Crystal, noting that she gets one injection per month of the anti-craving drug.

Crystal also found employment during her time in our program, and remains employed today. She volunteers to answer the Hope Line, guiding people to recovery activities and sharing her experience, strength and hope. She plans to help with community outreach, sharing her story of hope and helping distribute Narcan kits.

“I can’t thank Judge Shriver, Angie Livesay and Diane Flowers of Family Recovery Court enough, along with the people at the Central Clinic Behavioral Health,” she said. “My relationship with my daughter has gotten better. Things have definitely improved in all areas.”