In a guest article, the district attorney in Essex County, Massachusetts, details a local effort to offer treatment on demand to non-violent offenders rather than prosecuting them.
SALEM, Mass. — Like many communities across the United States, the 34 cities and towns of Essex County, Massachusetts, have been battling a drug epidemic which claimed 193 lives last year. While the profile of the heroin user has changed; the outcome of heroin use has not. Heroin ruins lives and wreaks havoc on families and communities. No socio-economic group or community is immune from heroin’s devastation.
In 2007, when the spike in opioid-related activity was just beginning, I introduced the Essex County Drug Diversion Program to help address this troubling issue. This effort includes a pre- and post-arraignment program for offenders with substance abuse issues who are charged with nonviolent offenses. The program provides candidates the opportunity to receive comprehensive substance abuse treatment services in lieu of being prosecuted through the traditional court process.