Effectively treating opioid use disorder (OUD) and preventing overdose requires a collaborative approach across systems. Opioid Courts have become an opportunity to address this public health crisis and prevent overdose deaths by rapidly linking participants to evidence-based treatment including Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) and other recovery support services.
New York State opened the country’s first opioid intervention court in Buffalo in 2017. Created with the explicit goal of saving lives, the Buffalo Opioid Court relies on day-of-arrest intervention, evidence-based treatment, daily judicial supervision, and wrap-around services to prevent overdose death. The process of initial interview, arraignment, bio-psycho-social screening, and transfer to treatment is completed within 24 hours of arrest.The Opioid Court model holds great promise by immediately connecting those at high risk of overdose to evidence-based treatment and intensive judicial supervision. The Opioid Court model was developed as a pre-plea, voluntary model that would serve as a medical triage for any offender at high risk of overdose. Upon stabilization, defendants could continue into a treatment court if they had significant legal leverage or pursue a disposition and be encouraged to remain engaged in treatment and recovery supportive services.
As a result of the success seen in Buffalo and as a key component of NY Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s Excellence Initiative, New York has opened an opioid intervention courts in each of the state’s thirteen judicial districts.