A trailblazing scheme has been launched to give urgent treatment and recovery aid to opiate users before they are put through court prosecution.
The first-of-its-kind Opiate Crisis Intervention Court was opened in Buffalo at the beginning of May to provide a better support system for at-risk drug users after they are arrested.
It flips the usual legal process by putting intervention and treatment ahead of criminal prosecution and court proceedings and has already proved to be hugely successful.
The new court was designed to tackle the spiraling opioid addiction crisis in the U.S. Officials in Buffalo took action to launch the pilot project in a bid to save lives after seeing people die while going through the traditional court process.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said: “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.”
Courts in Buffalo have seen a drastic rise in the number of cases involving heroin users and opioid overdoses in recent years.
Figures released by Erie County Health Department show a major increase since 2014 when there were 127 opiate-related deaths. That number soared to 256 in 2015 and hit 296 last year.
As of the end of May, there had been 66 confirmed opiate deaths and another 110 suspected already in 2017.
The alarming numbers led to court officials making a bid for… (continue reading)