Goshen, NY — U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who serves as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 18th congressional district (all of Orange County and Putnam County, parts of southern Dutchess County and northeastern Westchester County, Newburgh, Beacon and Poughkeepsie) since 2013, is pushing for federal funds to help New York police try out the new approach. The concept of the pre-booking diversion is picking up momentum at police departments nationwide.
A new program could send addicts charged with low-level crimes to rehab instead of jail. The idea is called a pre-booking diversion, which gives police the option to immediately get an addict into treatment instead of putting them behind bars. Officials say that 70 percent of crime in Orange County is drug-related, News 12 reports.
Legislation Will Create Pre-Booking Drug Diversion Program
Based off of successful drug diversion programs in Seattle and Gloucester, Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) and Richard Hanna (NY-22) announced new bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic and stop mass incarceration of abusers and low-level drug offenders. 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 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. This legislation is the first component of Rep. Maloney’s criminal justice reform agenda focusing on diversion, defense and re-entry.
“Our country is on the edge – we are facing not only a growing heroin epidemic but the realization that simply incarcerating these folks just isn’t working. In many of our communities law enforcement officers are on the frontlines of both crime and treatment and this legislation provides them with a critical tool to divert these individuals to treatment instead of chronically arresting them. Our criminal justice system is broken and cannot be solved unless we stop criminalizing those who need treatment,” said Rep. Maloney.
“Our communities are in the throes of a heroin crisis and our court system is overcrowded,” Rep. Hanna said. “We must look at different ways to not only address these issues but overcome them. LEAD programs have gained momentum around the country and municipalities that have tried them have seen impressive results. I look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Maloney to give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to do what’s best to keep the public safe.”
“I applaud Congressmen Maloney and Hanna for their leadership around the issue of drug addiction and keeping our communities safe through treatment. Here in Albany we are excited to launch a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion initiative where police officers will have the ability to divert arrests away from the criminal justice system into services they need. LEAD not only gets people the help they need but helps to build and restore trust between the police and the communities we serve,” said Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox, who is launching a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, modeled after the successful LEAD pilot program in Seattle, in Albany, NY on April 1st.
“On behalf of the Gloucester Police Department and PAARI, we are very happy to see the proactive and cooperative work being done by Congressmen Sean Patrick Maloney and Richard Hanna to combat the disease of addiction. We stand ready to assist and collaborate in any way we can,” said Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello who has led a successful pre-booking drug diversion program, called the PAARI program, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
“Drug policy in this country is focused too much on punishment and not enough on treatment. Congressman Maloney’s bill would give low-level drug offenders a chance to get the medical treatment that anyone with a chronic disease so justly deserves. It can also help end the stigma associated with the horrible disease of addiction,” said Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof.
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 PAARI 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 (H.R. 4654) 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.