New York Opens Opiate Court

Human arm with vial of drug with syringe in color

It’s no secret that the opioid addiction problem in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. The topic is in the news almost daily. Lawmakers and those who are tasked with enforcing the law are beginning to realize that the current problem cannot be dealt with like those in the past. Fines and incarceration are not going to cure the issue and people are looking for alternatives.

Several jurisdictions across the country have specialized drug courts. The state of New York took things to a new level last month when it instituted the country’s first opiate court. The court’s aim is to help offenders find treatment rather than lock them away.

Care Replaces Confinement

This first opiate court opened its doors on May 1 in Buffalo. Anyone who was arrested in the city was screened and those who tested positive were directed towards treatment. Their criminal cases were put on the back burner. If they can successfully complete their programs, judges and prosecutors will work together, looking at successful completion as a factor in prosecution.

While there are traditional drug courts, the opiate court will be somewhat different. Instead of delaying treatment, those addicted to opioids will begin treatment immediately. If a person does not initially succeed in treatment, there are no penalties.

Problems in Buffalo

A recent report in The Buffalo News stated:

“With an average of one overdose death in Erie County every day, the object is to save lives, officials said. Latest figures from the Erie County Health Department show 66 confirmed fatal overdoses in 2017, with 111 more suspected. There were 296 confirmed fatal overdoses in 2016.”

The paper also reported that the opiate court has been a success so far. Of the first 43 people that walked through its doors, 40 decided to seek treatment. It is anticipated that the success of the court will only grow, but that remains to be seen. While judges and attorneys can fight for better options, it will ultimately be up to offenders to decide to turn their lives around.

There is no one who can honestly say kicking a drug habit is easy. It takes hard, often painful, work. That said, treatment in an approved facility is often easier than beating an addiction behind bars. It is a hope that more people will continue to take advantage of this possibly life-saving option. If the court in New York succeeds, other states are almost assuredly going to follow suit.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs in Pennsylvania, we are here for you. Reach out to our team of experienced DUI attorneys for assistance. We are ready to put our extensive knowledge of local and state laws to work for you as we build a strong defense on your behalf. Call our office today to schedule your appointment for a free case evaluation. Help is just a phone call away.