Briella TomassettiAug 13, 2018, 4:41 pmAug 14, 2018, 1:19 pm

Suffolk program targets non-violent defendants suffering from addiction

DA Tim Sini calls the tool a ‘continuum of opportunities for intervention’

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CENTRAL ISLIP — The Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini introduced a drug treatment program on Monday that could help non-violent defendants suffering from addiction swap jail time for rehabilitation.

Sini calls the drug treatment program Suffolk County's latest “tool” to help combat the growing opioid epidemic.

"The way we can help fight against the drug epidemic is to follow it. There is a continuum of opportunities for intervention," said Sini.

The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery and Education or “CARE” program allows non-violent defendants to enroll in a treatment program for 90 days before entering a plea. If the defendant successfully completes that program, the case gets sealed and dismissed.

A defendant's eligibility for the treatment program will be based on the crime he or she is charged with and their criminal history. The type of rehabilitation will also vary depending on the person's drug condition.

For instance, someone addicted to opioids may require inpatient treatment; whereas, someone with a marijuana addiction may not. If the defendant does not successfully complete the program or is re-arrested, the case will not be dropped.

Typically, a misdemeanor charge in New York is punishable by up to one year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine. But Sini says some will get second chances as each case is evaluated on an individual basis.

"We know that there are folks whose lives will be forever changed because of their exposure to the criminal justice system. This takes the best out of that and funnels those folks directly into treatment where they can get the help that they need," said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, CEO of the Family and Children's Association.

The program is being funded with existing resources but the court has filed applications for grants, hoping to get more federal funding for it in the future.

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