Where the Law Offers a Lifeline
FITCHBURG -- The city is launching a drug court that is geared to provide support and services for people facing addiction. “There’s less of a chance of people slipping through the cracks,” Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said Wednesday. “It’s a great place to do it because everyone cares here.”
Opioid addiction is one of the biggest problems nationwide and in the community, he said, and a drug court is a way of thinking outside the box to address the issue.
Drug court will provide people with probationary support in the community and in the court system, said District Court Judge Christopher LoConto.
The Office of Community Corrections -- which is a collaboration between probation and parole services, sheriffs and the state Department of Correction -- will work hand-in-hand with the drug court, he said.
“We’re not going to change what isn’t broken, but we are just going to expand on it,” LoConto said. “Hopefully we can provide additional services and we can provide additional recovery support for those struggling.”
Massachusetts has 25 adult drug courts, including ones in Worcester and Dudley.
Early also mentioned other collaborative efforts like a pilot program to address addiction and an opioid task force in which local police, judges, the sheriff’s office, members of the recovery community, and more have worked together.
“This is a community problem and the only way we beat it is with community solutions -- breaking down silos and sharing,” he said.
The drug court announcement came during Fitchburg’s Law Day celebration that city leaders, community members and law enforcement attended at Fitchburg District Court.
At the celebration, Mayor Stephen DiNatale presented a citation from the city recognizing Law Day and the rule of law, which includes recognition of rights like free speech and freedom of the press.
“We’re in a time where the rule of law is somewhat elusive sometimes,” he said, “but I know what in this courthouse it is alive and well and will continue to do so.”
The North Worcester County Bar Association, which helped organize the event, presented its Annual Book Award to Mark Leary, a program manager for the Fitchburg Community Corrections Program through the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.
Leary was recognized for his work helping people fighting addiction and building community support for them.
“It’s probably one of the nicest things that ever happened to me in my whole life,” he said. “We couldn’t do anything without the people around us.”
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