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Rep. Maloney Visits Dutchess To Discuss Bill On Drug Diversion Programs

WAMC, Allison Dunne

Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was in Dutchess County Monday, reintroducing his bill to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic by creating pre-booking drug diversion programs. The idea is to allow police officers to use their discretion to divert individuals directly to treatment instead of booking them and processing them through the criminal justice system. Maloney made the announcement in the Dutchess County Stabilization Center, whose grand opening was last week.

Congressman Maloney, whose 18th District includes Poughkeepsie and the southern part of Dutchess County, says The Keeping Communities Safe Through Treatment Act would provide grants to law enforcement agencies in designated high-intensity drug trafficking areas for programs to divert low-level drug offenders to drug treatment programs.

“But the key is to have law enforcement as a partner at its discretion, in certain cases, taking these folks directly to treatment,” Maloney says. “My bill would simply scale that up on a federal level, provide resources through the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance programs that would allow communities like Poughkeepsie and counties like Dutchess to have more resources for those types of programs that we know work.”

Maloney joined Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison to discuss the legislation, which also would allow the Attorney General to collect first-of-its-kind data on these programs. He says that by allowing police officers to use their discretion to divert individuals directly to treatment instead of booking them, such programs give officers the flexibility they need to help curb the growing opioid epidemic, decrease low-level drug crime, and reduce the number of low-level drug related arrests.

“We’ve had a lot of funerals in the Hudson Valley because of the opioid epidemic. We have in Orange County, across the river, I believe the highest overdose rate of any county in New York state for the most recent year that’s been looked at,” Maloney says. “And here in Dutchess County, I believe the numbers of accidental overdose deaths are up about 30 percent in recent years. And it’s all opioids.”

The 2014 statistics for Orange County come from a 2016 state comptroller report, which culled information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady says the new Dutchess County Stabilization Center in Poughkeepsie, a walk-in facility for individuals who need assistance coping with mental health issues or substance abuse, will play a pivotal role in diverting substance abusers from jail.

“And we are in the process of training police officers throughout the county to be able to more effectively deal with these individuals and bring them to this location so they can be effectively screened and then partnered with facilitators in the community more effectively who can more effectively deal with their problems,” Grady says. “So the end result is we in the criminal justice system will be in a position to not have to deal with drug dependency issues after they’re arrested.”

The Dutchess County Stabilization Center is the first of its kind in New York. Here’s Republican Dutchess County Executive Molinaro.

“And by giving law enforcement the right tools, give them the right training, and provide the support services, like the ones that exist at the Stabilization Center, we not only will help to   confront this epidemic but we’ll save lives, and that’s what counts,” Molinaro says.

Republican Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison, who spent 29 years as a police officer, says any federal funding to augment the goals of the stabilization center makes sense.

“These types of extra funds coming in targeted to help individuals already with this in place will also be a very judicious use of the taxpayers’ money,” Rolison says. “We don’t really need to invent something. It’s already here.”

Again, Maloney.

“And you know, I have to say, in a time when we see such tension between law enforcement and certain communities, anything that adds to integrating law enforcement officers more into problem solving with their communities, I think is a positive step.”

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