New drug intervention program to combat opioid epidemic

SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY ( / — Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini and the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (“LICADD”) today announced a new drug diversion program to connect individuals who come in contact with the District Attorney’s Office and are suffering from substance use disorders with treatment. 

“The District Attorney’s Office is in a unique position to help those suffering from substance use disorders,” Sini said. “Not only are we in contact with people who have committed non-violent crimes driven by their addiction, but also victims, witnesses and members of the public who may be struggling with substance use themselves. This program allows us to help the people we serve at every single step of the way.”

The new program—known as Diversion Opening Opportunities for Recovery Services (“DOORS”)—allows members of the District Attorney’s Office to refer individuals who may be suffering from addiction to treatment in an effort to combat the opioid epidemic in the region as well as divert non-violent, low-level offenders from the criminal justice system. The individuals could be criminal defendants, crime victims, witnesses, substance users identified tangentially through investigations into major drug traffickers, or members of the public who come in contact with the District Attorney’s Office through its various community outreach efforts. 

The District Attorney’s Office will provide contact information for the individuals suffering from substance use disorders, when legally authorized, to LICADD for outreach and referral to service. 

“The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) commends District Attorney Tim Sini for his persistent leadership and innovation geared towards keeping the residents of Suffolk County safe and well,” said Steven Chassman, Executive Director of LICADD. “The recent takedown and arrests of high volume drug dealers contributing to the detriment of our society illustrates DA Sini’s commitment to the security and wellness of our communities. DA Sini understands very well that drug dealers belong in jail, and sick people belong in treatment. The DOORS initiative in partnership with LICADD, will provide Long Islanders who are sick with the disease of substance use disorder (SUD) an opportunity to access substance use treatment and mental health support services, ultimately assisting Long Island families on the road to recovery and wellness. History has revealed in times of great crisis comes great opportunity for leadership and community service. LICADD is honored to partner with DA Sini and the District Attorney’s Office as we continue to work collectively to support Long Islanders in these challenging times.”

LICADD’s experienced clinicians will reach out to the identified person via the contact information provided by the District Attorney’s office; inform the person that they have been identified by law enforcement as someone who may benefit from services; and connect them with and encourage them to engage in treatment with a New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (“OASAS”) certified provider. 

“This initiative is particularly important in light of the coronavirus pandemic, during which individuals who are feeling isolated or anxious may have increased substance use, or started using again after being in recovery,” Sini said. “Preliminary data also indicates that we’re seeing an uptick in overdoses during the health crisis, which is very concerning. The pandemic has unfortunately not put a ‘pause’ on addiction, so these services are perhaps more important than ever.” 

Preliminary data has shown increase of 15% year-to-date in fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses in the Suffolk County Police district.

 “Investing in diversion programs is just one piece of the puzzle,” Sini said. “My Office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute drug dealers, particularly those who are causing overdoses, and dismantle the large-scale trafficking operations responsible for bringing this poison into our communities.” 

The DOORS program is modeled after the Suffolk County Police Department’s Preventing Incarceration via Opportunities for Treatment (“PIVOT”) program, in which members of the Police Department refer appropriate candidates to LICADD for outreach and referral to treatment. The PIVOT program was created by Sini in October 2017 in his previous role as Suffolk County Police Commissioner. Since the inception of the PIVOT program, LICADD made contact with 454 of the individuals identified as potentially in need of treatment services. Of those individuals, 100 of them accepted treatment as a direct result of the contact, comprising a 22% success rate in referrals. 

In August 2018, Sini also launched a drug diversion program called the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery and Education Program, or C.A.R.E. Program, in collaboration with members of the judiciary and criminal defense bar in Suffolk County. The C.A.R.E. program allows non-violent defendants charged with certain misdemeanor offenses who are suffering from substance use disorders to participate in a drug treatment program in exchange for the dismissal of the pending charges against them in Suffolk County. In 2019, the program had 159 new participants, 40 of whom are still pending completion. Of the remaining 119 participants, 78 successfully completed the program, comprising a 65.5% success rate.

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