Buffalo Opioid Drug Intervention Court Helps At-Risk Offenders Get Clean
A new approach to opioid addiction treatment has been implemented in Buffalo. The Opiate Crisis Intervention Court is the first of its kind and was opened in May in an effort to offer improved support for at-risk drug users after arrest.
Moreover, instead of instantaneous prosecution, the legal process is put on hold for intervention and addiction treatment. It has already shown to be very successful. The pilot program was launched by Buffalo officials to battle the opioid epidemic and save lives.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn:
“Unfortunately this came about because we have had one or two people dying in our court system every week as a result of drug use and overdoses. We were scratching our heads and saying we need to do more here.”
Like much of the U.S., Buffalo courts have experienced a marked increase recently in the number of cases related to heroin and opioid drug addiction and overdoses. Data collected by the Erie County Healthy Department reveal a substantial rise in opioid overdoses from 2014-2016, from 127 to 296, a number than more than doubled.
The court works like this: within one day of an arrest, every person in custody is evaluated by experts to determine if they have an opioid addiction. After the evaluation, those with addiction receive individual treatment – some are sent to inpatient care, and others participate in outpatient care with supervision.
“As long as they have not committed a violent crime, they’re immediately brought and arraigned in the opioid court. They are put in an inpatient care facility and then given the treatment they need. Their charges are adjourned, they are basically on hold until they have successfully completed the treatment or have some sort of a game plan as to how they are going to be treated.”
The court is managed by the joint effort of Buffalo City Court officials, the district attorney’s office, and the University of Buffalo School of Family Medicine. So far, the court is on track to surpass more than 200 people this year, as the first two months saw over 60 people enter treatment.
Officials state that the drug intervention court will stay open as long as necessary to save lives, and also hope it will encourage the development of similar programs in the United States.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology