Rochester court putting opioid addiction treatment before jail time

Rochester court putting opioid addiction treatment before jail time
Opioid Court to focus on those most at risk of an overdose when it opens next week
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Officials announce the opening of “Opioid Court” for those under arrest for certain crimes and most at risk of an overdose because of their addiction.

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) – Rochesters drug court has served as a model program since its inception nearly 25 years ago. In it, defendants with addiction problems are diverted into treatment as their criminal case moves through the courts. It has a very successful track record, yet the process to get in can take months.

Opioids are so addictive and – with the addition of fentanyl – so deadly, it puts certain defendants at risk the moment they go through arraignment and are released from jail. “Their tolerance goes down from their short stay in the jail, and thats when they use again and fatalities occur,” said Judge John DiMarco.

He estimated between 10 and 20 people who are arrested in Rochester every week are at the highest risk of overdose – that theyre more of a danger to themselves than the community.

“We recognize theyre at high risk,” agreed Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter. “Thats exactly what were trying to ween out of the jail and put them where they belong, into a bed and treatment program.”

A new version of drug court – focusing on opioids – opens in Rochester next week. Its official name is Opioid Stabilization Part (OSP) but it already is being referred to as opioid court. Those most at risk of an overdose will be screened the night of their arrest, right at the Monroe County Jail.

Those that qualify will have their criminal case put on hold. Theyll appear before a special judge and be in treatment within a day. “We have their attention. Having their attention creates maybe the only opportunity that those folks have to commit to get this thing turned around,” said Judge DiMarco, who will oversee the court.

Unlike regular drug court, these defendants will be required to check in with the judge every day. Those in outpatient rehab will do that in person. For those without insurance, the treatment will be paid for with a $1.8 million dollar federal grant.

District Attorney Sandra Doorley said only those with lower-level offenses will be eligible and public safety will not be impacted. “Theyre usually given bail, so theyre released (into the community) anyway. At this point were not allowing violent felons to get into the program.” The criminal case resumes only when defendants are stable enough to get into the next phase of treatment.

Opioid court opened in Buffalo in the spring of last year. So far, it has not lost a single participant to an overdose.

Posted in Rochester