Reforms could affect drug offenders seeking treatment

wwny Reforms could affect drug offenders seeking treatment

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Last week, we reported on a spike in the number of overdose deaths in Jefferson County over a short period of time. With cash bail disappearing in the new year, county officials are concerned it could reduce the incentive for drug offenders to seek treatment.

"We have resources and services available to offenders that they normally wouldn't seek out if they were incarcerated," said Jefferson County Sheriff Colleen O'Neill.

She says the mental health and drug treatment services at the county jail are working. But, that's only if inmates in jail are using them.

Back in April, the state legislature eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felony offenses.

County Legislature Chairman Scott Gray says the new law could hurt addicts' ability to get help.

"We're concerned about where these people are going to go. Is the hospital going to see more activity? There's a lot of speculation and we won't know a lot until we start seeing it happening," he said.

Under the changed law, drug offenders will either get released on their own recognizance or get an appearance ticket.

While there are several addition treatment centers and mental health services in the area, County Community Services Director Timothy Ruetten says it will require more willpower from the addict to seek help.

"There is concern when a person is released with an appearance ticket, it will take them away from the services and there will be less incentive to engage," he said.

And Gray says with a rising number of opioid deaths in Jefferson County, "We're concerned about our community. We're going to do the best we can. It is going to potentially complicate the process and make it difficult to deal with."

Time will tell come January when the law takes effect.

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