The criminal justice system is stepping in to help keep opioid addicts clean.
Beginning December 1, an opiate courtroom is expected to open in Monroe County.
"Arguably, anybody that is using opiates that contain fentanyl are at risk for death,” said Monroe County Court Judge John DeMarco. “That's the population we want to capture."
Judge DeMarco oversees drug treatment courts in the seventh judicial district.
People arrested and identified as acute addicts will have the option to take part in this new 45-day treatment program that could help save their lives, he said.
"If we think that someone is at risk for death or overdose, we will move them prior to arraignment into what we're going to call the stabilization part,” DeMarco said. “Within 24 hours, those defendants will be transitioned into a treatment setting."
In order to make this new court a success, Judge DeMarco said community stakeholders must all be in the loop from law enforcement officers, to medical providers and prosecutors.
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley says eligibility includes misdemeanors and non-violent offenders.
Doorley said she is ready to "pause" the criminal charges in order to get the person into treatment quickly.
But the criminal case goes back on the calendar once the defendant is stabilized.
"We'll look at their charge and see what's appropriate, maybe a reduction at that point, maybe transferring them to another diversion part which could be either drug court or, again, the felony judicial diversion part for extended treatment," she said.
This opiate court will be similar to the one that has been up and running in Buffalo for more than a year now.
Funding for the program will come from moving existing resources in Rochester drug treatment courts.
As far as those who argue it's not cost effective and defendants will slip up, Judge DeMarco encourages skeptics to look at the statistics.
"I think the proof is in the pudding: 25 years these drug courts have been in effect, they've been successful," he said. "There is no guaranteed benefit for successful stabilization. This is all about keeping folks alive, so that we can get them successfully through recovery."