A court judge from Plymouth, Massachusetts recently gave a talk at the IDEAS Boston conference that dug deep into the opiate epidemic that is rampant in the state and in the United States as a whole. Judge Rosemary Minehan was among the twelve local thinkers and leaders who were invited to deliver talks in the conference which was held on the morning of October 28 in the ballroom of the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB). In her talk, Minehan discussed the need for specialty courts, which main responsibility is to deal with cases that involve specific demographics like people who have mental health issues or people with drug addictions.
As the First Justice of the Plymouth District Court, Minehan is on the front lines when it comes to battling social problems that involve substance abuse and mental health problems. She also served as an active member of the Opioid Working Group which was specifically established to find ways on how to solve the opioid and heroin epidemic in the state of Massachusetts. Minehan helped in devising plans that aim to find solutions to these problems by relating them to specialty courts. Minehan also heads the District Court Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Minehan reiterated the fact that the epidemic is worsening in Massachusetts based on government data. In 2014 alone, over 1000 people in Massachusetts died due to causes related to heroin. This is the highest number ever recorded in the state and it's a 322% increase from the statistics in 2000. This means the figures tripled in just over a decade.
In her talk, Minehan described two demographics she attributed to heroin addicts in her state. The first demographic is composed of teenagers who turn to heroin when their doctor-prescribed opioid medications run out. The second demographic is composed of adults aged 50 and above who have easy access to refills through their doctors. The judge also stated that most cases of overdosing happen for the 40-54 age group.
Minehan discussed a concept she referred to as "sequential intercept mapping". In this strategy, a court utilizes community resources as well as look into the addict's specific social situation in assessing how he or she should go through the legal system. This concept offers a lot of benefits. One, it's much cheaper compared to sending the addict to jail or a treatment facility. Two, affiliated legal workers and the community's hospital workers and law enforcers are efficiently utilized. And three, the court can focus on the addicts while keeping people who might wrongly influence them out of their lives.
Minehan also asserted that there are different types of addicts. For instance, there are those who might need chemical assistance because of the gravity of their addiction. Then there are those who need to go through acute withdrawal procedures because they are much more dependent on heroin. The judge estimated that it will take an addict about 16 months to go through her specialized drug court. This means the individual will have ample time to turn his or her life around while learning a valuable skill set.