By David Brand
Queens Daily Eagle
On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a new law designed to address the opioid epidemic by funding diversion programs for opioid abusers involved in the criminal justice system.
The state will expand funding for diversion models, including law enforcement assisted diversion, known as LEAD.
“We must use every tool at our disposal to combat this nation’s opioid epidemic and the underlying issues that lead people to commit crime, and this legislation makes available additional funding to help New Yorkers in need,” Cuomo said. “By helping New Yorkers turn their lives around, this program helps strengthen communities, increase public safety and break the vicious cycle of recidivism once and for all.”
In 2016, at least 318 Queens residents were treated for opioid overdose and 235 died, according to data from the state Department of Health. In 2017, 172 residents died from opioid overdoses, the DOH reports.
Many opioid abusers are involved in the criminal justice system because they have been arrested for buying drugs or for engaging in behaviors associated with drug-seeking, including burglary and sex work.
The new law expands the allowable use of funding from seized or forfeited assets by prosecutors and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.
“We’re working to enhance and reform our criminal justice system, and this legislation will support treatment services and help to reduce incarceration,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. “Forfeiture funding will now be able to be used for substance abuse programs, mental health services and housing assistance. These actions will increase public safety across the state and help New Yorkers recover and turn their lives around.”