According to the National Institute on Drug abuse, 115 individuals die in the United States every day as the result of an opioid overdose. The issue has become serious enough in recent years to earn its description as a national epidemic crisis. Not all opioids are illegal, and in fact, many cases of abuse begin with a legal prescription for pain relievers like OxyContin. Patients can quickly become addicted and when the legal supply dries up, they often turn to illegal substitutes like heroin.
Lawmakers around the country have been looking for constructive ways to deal with the opioid crisis. One idea involves the creation of “opioid courts” which are intended to help those who have been arrested for non-violent drug crimes related to opioids. Several such courts have been established around the country, and some Connecticut legislators want to look into creating one in this state.
A Proposed Study
Last month, the state Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would create a task force to study the possibility of opening opioid intervention courts in Connecticut. Presuming such courts in Connecticut would be based on existing models, the courts would help non-violent drug offenders pursue drug treatment programs and check in with the court rather than simply being sentenced to prison.
The state already has two drug intervention courts, though they are not specifically designed for opioid addicts. The drug courts in New Haven and Danielson have shown good success in helping participants to get clean and to avoid rearrests.
The proposed bill would only begin the investigation process, not actually approve the new courts. Many lawmakers, however, think the time has come to consider every option. “Clearly the system is not working,” said Representative Richard Smith. Smith believes that the study “is warranted.”
Representatives from the Connecticut Judicial Branch, however, are worried about stretching themselves too thin. In recent years, the branch’s budget has been cut by more than $60 million and its staff by nearly 16 percent. A spokesperson said that the branch cannot afford to study another drug court model. Officials also indicate that many of the principles applied in drug courts have already been incorporated into all other criminal and juvenile courts throughout the state. They claim that the people who need treatment do get it.
The measure will soon be presented to Senate for a full vote.
Facing Drug Charges?
If you or someone you love has been arrested on charges related to heroin or any other type of illegal drug, you may have options available. Contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney to discuss your case in a free, confidential consultation. Call 860-290-8690 for an appointment at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.