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article imageFirst American opiate intervention court opens in Buffalo, N.Y.

By Arthur Weinreb     Jun 1, 2017 in Health
Buffalo - In the first of its kind in the United States, a special court has been set up in Buffalo, New York to provide treatment to opiate addicts before they are dealt with by the criminal justice system. The hope is to save lives and reduce future offences.
An announcement of the opening of a new court was made yesterday morning. The court was set up as a pilot project and began operations on May 1. Called the Opiate Crisis Intervention Court, it is hoped to stem the rising incidents of heroin addiction and overdose deaths in Buffalo that are plaguing the nation.
All those who are arrested in Erie County will be screened upon arrest to determine if they are addicted to opiates. If they are determined to be opiate users, they are immediately sent for treatment after arraignment and their criminal case is put on hold. Judge Craig Hannah, the judge overseeing this special court, said the type of treatment will vary depending upon the individual. Some criminal defendants will be treated as outpatients under supervision while others will be sent to inpatient facilities.
According to County Executive Mark Poloncarz, these addicts often run into trouble with the law because of their addiction and do not pose a real danger to the public. They need to be treated for their underlying addiction. Hannah said lives can be saved if criminal cases are put on hold for periods ranging from 30 to 90 days. It is believed these lives can be saved if treatment is undertaken before trial rather than after a conviction. In the regular court system, some defendants die from opiate overdoses before they are to appear in court for their trial.
After treatment is completed, the defendant will then return to the criminal justice system. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said the state has several options in dealing with these offenders. These include dropping the charges or taking a reduced plea.
Criminal defendants who have gone through unsuccessful treatment before will not be barred from it being offered again as long as the person has tried to beat his or her addiction. The project acknowledges the fact some people will slip up.
According to the Erie County Health Department, the county averages one opiate death every day and so far 2017 has seen 66 confirmed deaths and 111 opiate death suspected. Last year, there were 296 confirmed overdose deaths from opiates.
Since May 1, 42 people have been receiving treatment through the program. Two received outpatient treatment while the remaining 40 defendants were sent to inpatient facilities.
The pilot project is being financed by a $300,000 grant from United States Department of Justice.
More about opiates, buffalo new york, Addiction, opiate crisis intervention court, Heroin
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