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New England city offers alternative to jail for heroin addicts

Too many Connecticut families have been touched by the scourge of heroin addiction and its tragic effects. New England has been hit particularly hard. Here in Connecticut, 306 deaths were linked to heroin last year. The victims are from large cities and small towns alike.

While heroin is an illegal drug, one city in Massachusetts is trying something new to get addicts into treatment and keep them out of prison. Since June, over 100 heroin and opioid addicts have turned themselves in to Gloucester police and have been placed in treatment programs. People who turn themselves in are not arrested, even if they turn over drugs and paraphernalia.

Gloucester's police chief calls the program the "next logical step in the so-called war on drugs." The program is subsidized in part with money that law enforcement has seized from drug dealers. The police department is also partnering with pharmacies who provide naloxone at discounted rates. That's a drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose.

Other cities across the country are taking similar steps to keep drug users out of jail and get them the treatment they need. As one law enforcement official noted, "Jail does nothing to help them stop abusing drugs." For these programs to succeed in the long-run, there needs to be enough treatment facilities available to handle an influx of people who would traditionally be sent to jail.

Connecticut residents facing drug charges may be eligible for a diversionary program in lieu of prison and a criminal record. An experienced defense attorney can work to explore all available options and work towards the one that will be best.

Source: Huffington Post, "Police Department Offers Heroin Addicts Amnesty, Treatment," Aug. 14, 2015

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