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Higgins & Poloncarz announce federal grant to expand services in Buffalo's Opioid Intervention Court


Fri, Apr 26th 2019 06:45 pm

$2 million award to facilitate new tools to support recovery, save lives

Congressman Brian Higgins and Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz were joined by Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah to announce a new federal grant to expand services and support for Buffalo Opioid Intervention Court (OIC) participants. The $2 million award to the Erie County Department of Mental Health, provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, brings a community care management model of services to the court. It will expand the court’s ability to serve more people.

“From Judge Hannah’s courtroom to County Executive Poloncarz’s task force, this region continues to set itself apart as trailblazer in innovative and comprehensive methods to urgently address the opioid crisis, and it is saving lives,” Higgins said. “This new award will help build opportunities to quickly connect people with resources that support immediate intervention and long-term recovery.”

Poloncarz said, “The Opioid Intervention Court has been a critical component in the fight against opioid abuse in Erie County, and this grant will help further that mission, working with community providers to help individuals facing drug charges move towards recovery. This court has led the way as a national model for opioid intervention, and we are both thankful for the $2 million grant and proud to work with Judge Hannah on this lifesaving initiative.”

The OIC, established in 2017 and led by Hannah, was the first of its kind in the nation. The pilot project was started with the help of a $297,768 federal grant through the U.S. Department of Justice.

Individuals facing drug charges can be diverted to the OIC at arraignment. The judicially supervised triage program allows participants to be linked with medication-assisted treatment and/or behavioral treatment within hours of their arrest. Under the conditions of the court, participants are required to report to the court every day, agree to random drug and wellness checks, and follow curfew rules. The goal is to provide a path to recovery and keep people alive.

Between 2013-16, opioid-related deaths in Erie County nearly tripled, reaching 301 lives lost at its peak in 2016. Poloncarz initiated an effort to address the public health crisis with an executive order establishing an opioid epidemic task force to provide a coordinated response to the growing problem. In the two years since, deaths due to opioids have been cut by a third.

The grant, awarded to Erie County’s Department of Mental Health in partnership with the University at Buffalo, provides $400,000 annually between 2019-24 and will allow the court to:

•Expand participant access to direct services through a community care management model, providing connections to services such as primary care, housing and workforce development. The expansion is built upon commitments from 15 community-based direct service providers.

•Employ evidence-based practices through the MISSION-CJ (maintaining independence and sobriety through systems integration, outreach and networking for criminal justice) model, which involves: peer and vocational support, the blending of addiction and mental health therapy, trauma-informed care considerations, and case intervention to facilitate linkages to community-based treatment providers.

•Increase the capacity of the court by 60 cases annually over the five-year grant period.

•Conduct program evaluation to support the dissemination of the OIC model nationwide.

“The Erie County Department of Mental Health is proud to be awarded this grant. This collaboration with the Opioid Intervention Court and the University of Buffalo Research Foundation will assist court participants struggling with addiction get on the path to recovery and hopefully avoid future contact with the criminal justice system,” said Michael Ranney, commissioner of mental health for Erie County.

In October, Higgins and Poloncarz announced $3.4 million in federal grants to support anti-opioid efforts in Erie County. Those awards are supporting expansion of the county’s opioid epidemic task force projects, implementation of the probation opioid response initiative, and the formation of an opioid overdose review board to inform policy and public health practices.

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