Maloney Introduces Federal Legislation to Combat Heroin and Opioid Epidemic
Poughkeepsie, NY— In response to the heroin and opioid epidemic, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) joined Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison in Poughkeepsie to introduce federal legislation to combat the opioid and heroin crisis and stop mass incarceration of abusers and low-level drug offenders nationwide. By allowing police officers to use their discretion to divert individuals directly to treatment instead of booking them and processing them through the criminal justice system, these programs give police officers the flexibility they need to help curb the growing opioid epidemic, decrease low-level drug crime, and reduce the number of low-level drug related arrests.
The Keeping Communities Safe Through Treatment Act would create a Department of Justice (DOJ) grant program to fund pre-booking drug diversion programs, which give law enforcement the option of diverting individuals directly to treatment instead of booking them, in counties designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). In the Hudson Valley, which has seen more than 1,135 opioid-related deaths in the last decade, Rep. Maloney has secured HIDTA designations for Putnam and Dutchess Counties, in addition to Orange and Westchester Counties.
“Everywhere I go in the Hudson Valley I hear stories about friends and loved ones lost to heroin and opioid addiction. We need a comprehensive approach to fighting this epidemic – and that starts with supporting our law enforcement officers who are on the frontlines of both crime and treatment. My legislation would provide a critical tool for these law enforcement officers to divert addicts directly to treatment instead of chronically arresting them,” said Rep. Maloney. “There is no silver bullet solution, but working together with County Executive Molinaro, Mayor Rolison, our local law enforcement, prosecutors, and community leaders we can make sure those on the frontlines have the support they need to expand prevention and treatment efforts, get drugs off our streets, and keep our children safe.”
County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro said, “this legislation, if enacted, would provide critical support and resources for Dutchess County’s ongoing efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic in our community, as well as to continue with our efforts to divert individuals from entering the criminal justice system. Dutchess County’s drug diversion programs including our newly opened Stabilization Center and Crisis Intervention Team training are working together to address this issue and are unique in America. This funding would allow for a collective and integrative response among law enforcement agencies and community service providers to help divert individuals dealing with substance abuse from jail and to help they need.”
“The heroin and opioid epidemic is a national crisis which effects every community across this country. Being able to divert individuals with addiction into treatment will go to help start the process of getting them stabilized and preventing them from entering the criminal justice system. I appreciate the efforts being made by Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney to direct financial resources to the local communities who know how best to utilize these funds,” said Mayor Rob Rolison.
Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health crisis that affects people of every race, income, and educational level. In 2013, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Westchester Counties had 233 reported deaths from drug overdoses. In 2010 alone, opioids contributed to over 16,000 deaths and heroin-involved overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2014 National Survey on Drug Abuse, 4.3 million people 12 years or older reported currently abusing prescription drugs. Moreover, each year drug abuse and addiction costs over $534 billion, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that we could save $4-$7 in criminal justice costs for every dollar invested in treatment and prevention.
Additionally, 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated, and approximately 50% of these inmates are clinically addicted. In fact, approximately 60% of individuals arrested for most criminal activity test positive for illicit drugs at the time of the arrest. Furthermore, imprisonment has little effect on drug abuse as approximately 95% return to drug use after their release and between 60-80% of drug abusers commit a new crime, which are typically drug-driven. Individuals that participated in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) pilot program in Seattle found that participants had nearly 60% lower odds of being rearrested, and in Gloucester, MA the Angel program has cut costs from $220 to $55 per addict when they diverted them to treatment instead of arresting, processing and holding them in custody for just a single day.
The Keeping Communities Safe Through Treatment Act, would award grants, funded through the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs, to assist law enforcement agencies in providing pre-booking diversion programs developed with local drug treatment programs and local prosecutors to address low-level drug crimes. The program would allow law enforcement officers, at their discretion, to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drug activity to community-based services, instead of jail and prosecution. By diverting eligible individuals to treatment services instead of incarceration, the programs would improve public safety and public order, and reduce the criminal behavior of people who participate in the program. The legislation would also allow the Attorney General to collect first-of-its-kind data on these programs. Rep. Maloney first introduced this legislation in the previous Congress with Rep. Richard Hanna, who has since retired.