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Panel suggests no new courts for people addicted to opioids

January 2, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut task force on Wednesday recommended against creating special state courts to serve people addicted to opioids, citing successful drug treatment programs already in place and the high cost of establishing such new courts.

The panel, which includes top state criminal justice officials and the state’s mental health and addiction services commissioner, released its final report to the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

The task force was created amid the nation’s opioid overdose crisis under legislation approved by lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy during the 2018 legislative session. More than 1,000 people in Connecticut died from accidental drug overdoses in 2017, and 2018′s total is expected to be about the same.

The panel cited the state Judicial Branch’s Treatment Pathway Program that is running in state courts in Bridgeport, New London, Torrington and Waterbury, and it recommended it be expanded to all state courts. The program helps people charged with nonviolent drug crimes obtain addiction treatment, medication, housing and other needs.

The program costs $100,000 per year at each location, with funding coming in part from federal grants and reimbursements from treatment services.

More than 400 people have been served by the program, which has saved the state an estimated $9 million in incarceration costs, the task force’s report said. Defendants in the program are released from state custody to receive treatment, and less than 25 percent of them received jail time for their pending cases.

The panel also is recommending that the state provide up to $7.1 million to restore 123 residential drug treatment beds for criminal defendants who were not eligible for the Treatment Pathway Program. Those beds were eliminated in the 2016 fiscal year because of budget constraints.

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