Content submitted by Middlesex District Attorney. Email news to [email protected].
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Lowell House, Inc. announced Middlesex County’s first pre-arraignment adult drug diversion and treatment program to help hundreds of individuals with substance use issues into treatment on Nov. 30. This program will provide critical intervention to individuals with substance use disorders at the earliest point in their intersection with the criminal justice system.
The one year pilot program will be available for individuals charged with a possessory drug offense, and/or other companion charges, in any of the communities served by Lowell District Court. By making this program available prior to arraignment participants will be able to avoid the charge on their criminal record, a known barrier to job and housing placement for many people in recovery. Individuals charged with serious offenses, including violent crimes will not be eligible for the diversion program.
“Being charged with a crime can be a traumatic event in a person’s life; however, in the immediate aftermath it can also provide a critical window of opportunity for intervening and introducing the value of alcohol or drug treatment,” said District Attorney Ryan. “By working collaboratively with Lowell House, Inc., local police departments, defense attorneys and other community partners, this program will fill a critical service gap for individuals just entering the criminal justice system to direct them to meaningful treatment.”
Individuals deemed eligible for diversion will be directed to the group-based Adult Diversion Alternatives Program (ADAP), run by Lowell House, Inc. The goal of the program is to provide a psycho-educational experience for alcohol and drug use and its effect on the participant’s life. By raising awareness and influencing behavioral changes it is the ultimate goal of the program to lower participants’ risk for any future substance related problems including related criminal activity. The program will run a total of 16 weeks.
“Lowell House provides a lifetime continuum for individuals in the ADAP program. The sixteen weeks of groups is just the beginning of a treatment process for a disease that has no cure but rather a solution of vigilance, community supports, determination and success,” said Bill Garr, Executive Director of Lowell House, Inc.
Upon successful completion of the program and all of its requirements the participants’ charge(s) will be dismissed and there will be no entry on their record. Participants will also be considered post-arraignment on a case by case basis.
Participation in the program is voluntary, however if a participant withdraws from the program, or if they are expelled for failure to comply with the program’s rules and guidelines, their pending criminal charge(s) will be prosecuted.
This model builds off the collaborative approach that District Attorney Ryan, along with law enforcement and community partners, have used to address substance misuse. Under this new program eligible participants will be directed to the program by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, probation department, local police departments or defense counsel ensuring that individuals in need of treatment can be identified at multiple points in the judicial process.
“I would like to thank District Attorney Ryan for her continued leadership on the opioid epidemic which continues to devastate families in Lowell. My hope is this program will push more people into supervised treatment and save lives,” said Lowell Police Superintendent William Taylor.
“We are very optimistic that this pilot diversion program will get much needed treatment and education to those just into the throes of addiction before they become part of the high risk high need population, or worse, lose their life to this terrible disease of addiction. I am confident this program will help eliminate the stigma associated with addiction and fill the void between early prevention education and incarceration. I am very proud to be working in the Greater Lowell area with District Attorney Ryan where all disciplines have developed a cooperative spirit and are committed to working together on creating solutions to this epidemic that has plagued the area and destroyed so many lives,” added Tewksbury Police Chief Timothy Sheehan.
The Greater Lowell region, which will be served by this program, has been one of the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic with State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office responding to 42 fatal overdoses in Lowell alone this year. As of Monday, November 28, 2016 there have been 226 fatal overdoses across Middlesex County. The Lowell region represents nearly 30 percent of countywide overdose deaths. Additionally, in the city of Lowell alone from January through October, Narcan has been administered 349 times.
Lowell District Court serves the communities of Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Lowell, Tewksbury and Tyngsborough.