WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - On Monday, Watertown City Court announced the beginning of a new Watertown Opioid Court.
"It's a huge problem and it's one that clogs the criminal justice system because these people need help," said Justice James Murphy, administrative judge, 5th Judicial District.
The court is in partnership with the Credo Community Center, which treats people with addictions.
The person who calls the people struggling with addiction directly is city court Judge Anthony Neddo.
"Judge Anthony Neddo has been a great support and we've been working well to get this off the ground," said Randi Forbes, Credo outreach and off site services coordinator.
In March, Credo received a $150,000 grant from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The grant funded 2 Credo positions to aid the court. Watertown City Court is one of 10 courts in the state to get this money and the long anticipated second courtroom in the city could help ease the caseload.
"Expanding all programs in our community is necessary. We are growing and seeing the need so I think expanding there is an absolute benefit," said Forbes.
The court identifies opioid users at risk for overdose once they enter the criminal justice system. If that person agrees to be added to the program, they will attend up to 3 sessions per week to assess what medication or treatment programs are needed. Their case is then put on hold while they stabilize.
According to public health, the number of opioid deaths in Jefferson County has been dropping - just 2 so far this year.
"Two overdoses is still two too many. There should not be this long wait to try to get some sort of medication if that's what's going to help a person survive and feel better and to be able to be successful in their own life. So I'm hoping that we can continue the education, continue to support the people in this community, and come together and really make a difference," said Forbes.
This service is open to anyone who has a criminal opioid case in Jefferson County courts, with the goal of saving lives one session at a time.