Representative Sean Patrick Maloney is calling on fellow lawmakers to pass a bill that would keep opioid and heroin users away from the criminal justice system and toward a path to recovery.
"For the addicts themselves, there is a better way forward, and we can do that by supporting each other and by supporting counties like Dutchess County with what works," Maloney said.
The Keeping Communities Safe Through Treatment Act would give federal funding to qualifying police departments, and give officers the option to bring drug users directly to treatment centers instead of jail.
"By giving law enforcement the right tools, give them the right training, and provide the support services like the ones that exist here at the Stabilization Center, we not only will help to confront this epidemic, but we'll save lives, and that's what counts," said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.
Dutchess County District Attorney Bill Grady says this legislation would let police and the court systems focus their resources on other matters.
"Once that happens, everything is heightened to a different level, so now by dealing with these addictions and mental health issues early on in this person's career, without jeopardizing public safety, I think it's a win-win for both the offender and the community," Grady said.
Officials that back the bill say filling up these seats instead of jail cells would help the community fight the drug epidemic and help drug users heal.