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Massachusetts Uses Drug Court To Help Fight The Opiate Epidemic

State governments are looking at new ways to help combat the opiate abuse affecting our country.  States are creating new restrictions to make it harder for addicts to get the drugs they desire. The problem with putting up wall in front of an addict is that the addicts will always find a way around. Opiate addicts will do what they need in order to get their next fix. Making new restrictions may help deter some addicts from using and may make it harder for others to get their fix, but it will not stop addicts from getting high.

When an addict is convicted of a crime, they are placed in jail until they can make bail or do their time and get released. Most addicts are in and out of jail due to the crimes they commit to get their drugs. When they are caught committing crimes that feed their addiction, they are placed back in jail. This "revolving door" cycle is normal and is seen throughout the US in our prison system. It's costing tax payers a lot of money and it's not fixing the underlying problems. Many times little to no treatment is offered to these individuals. They do their time, are let our of jail and fall right back into their addiction.  Massachusetts is facing this problem and have decided to be proactive in their approach. They have implemented a program to get treatment for addicts rather than throwing them back into the prison system.

Massachusetts has 21 drug courts in the state and are offering a new way of handling substance abuse and drug addicts. In the Quincy District Court, Judge Mary Beth Heffernan is the judge who presides over the specialty drug court.  Defendants with substance abuse problems are closely supervised, subjected to random drug testing and required to participate in support groups and treatment programs as an alternative to jail.

Governor Deval Patrick declared the opiate epidemic a public health emergency and will be adding five more treatment centers to the state. With the state grappling with opiate abuse and the increased amount of heroin on the streets, the state needs to add these drug court programs to better their chances at winning the fight against drugs. The new drug courts are part of a goal to double the number of drug courts in the state over the next 3 years. Those in favor of the drug courts which also include mental health and veterans treatment courts, allow the state to give intense support to specific groups of people who could be better helped by structured supervision rather than prison time.

All of the drug court participants are required to complete a 6 month inpatient rehabilitation program.  They must find employment and can be randomly drug tested up to three times a week. During the 18-month program they meet regularly with a probation officer and go to court to report on their progress to the judge. Treating addicts rather than locking them up is a better fix and hopefully more states will follow.

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