Buffalo, New York fights the nation’s opioid epidemic by initiating the first US opiate intervention court.
On August 10, US President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. The move stems from a letter sent to the president from the White House Opioid Commission led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, calling for executive action. In the letter, the commission noted that more people now die from overdoses than “gun homicides and car crashes combined.”
The White House has yet to introduce any exact steps to be taken to fight the epidemic, so cities within the nation have been working to find their own solution to remedy the increasing death toll.
Police officers in Buffalo, New York say there has been a dramatic rise in drug use and overdose cases since 2014. The recent spike urged Buffalo to open the nation’s first opioid intervention court to treat addicts. After a person is arrested they are sent to Judge Craig Hannah, who rules to put their charges on hold while they undergo the treatment program. After completion, they will still face charges, but on occasion these will be reduced or dropped.
“We learned a lot from the 70s and 80s when they just locked everyone up instead of trying to get them to treatment, because if you lock people up they still have the drug problem when they get out,” Judge Hannah told VICE News.
The opiate court is funded by a Department of Justice grant put in place under the Obama administration. But with the Trump administration, the implementation of more of these courts is questionable, leaving Buffalo with the task to lead the nation by showing how programs like these may be beneficial to addicts and communities.
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