Harford County district court program aimed to fight opioid dependency

Posted at 5:06 PM, Feb 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-27 18:25:36-05

The Adult Opiate Recovery Court is designed to provide an alternative to traditional incarceration for drug offenses.

The District Court of Maryland created the program. It will provide supervision and structure while helping participants obtain the services they need to overcome dependency. The court can accommodate up to 40 participates over 12 months. There's also a 24-month aftercare program. 

"This innovative program is part of the Judiciary's ongoing commitment to serving communities and addressing unique local needs," chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals Mary Ellen Barbera said. "By bringing together community service providers and working with our justice partners, we are collaborating to address a growing health crisis by giving people an opportunity to reclaim their lives.  In doing so, we are helping to strengthen families and communities in Maryland."

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The opiate recovery court's mission is to address rehabilitation instead of traditional case processing. In order to enter the program, a Harford County resident facing criminal charges stemming from opioid abuse must be diagnosed with an opioid dependency. The diagnosis will come from a drug and alcohol assessment administered by a licensed treatment facility. 

"Placing someone in jail can separate them from the drug for a period of time, but to avoid recidivism we need to bring justice partners together and understand the multiple ways we need to address a person's addiction.  I am encouraged by the progress we have made early on, and I know the dedication Judge Hazlett and Judge Carey give to their courts will translate to making a positive impact in people's lives throughout Harford County," chief judge of the District Court of Maryland John P. Morrissey said.

The opiate recovery court is one of Maryland's 37 drug treatment courts. The Harford County Sheriff's Office reports there were 290 suspected heroin overdoses in 2016, with 56 fatalities. There were 201 overdoses and 27 fatalities in 2015.