CANANDAIGUA — In an effort to combat the opioid crisis, Ontario County will be getting nearly $2 million to expand the work of its drug treatment court.
The federal, multi-year grant was recently awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). The county Board of Supervisors approved a resolution accepting the grant at its meeting Thursday.
County Administrator Mary Krause said the public defender’s office and district attorney’s office collaborated to secure the grant, in response to the opioid epidemic plaguing the county. SAMSHA will fund up to $1.89 million over a five-year period to support the county’s proposed strategy to increase case management and peer support for drug treatment court participants.
The grant is awarded incrementally based on results, with $367,023 earmarked for the first year.
“The grant will be used in a strong way to help combat the opioid crisis,” District Attorney Jim Ritts said. “The number of young people we are losing makes programs like this essential. It’s an important tool for fighting the opioid battle by identifying people early on in an addiction situation and getting them help.”
The grant will be used to increase the drug treatment court’s capacity while aiming to lower recidivism and substance abuse relapses by court graduates. Key to this initiative will be partnerships with longtime local non-profit drug treatment agencies that specialize in recovery support services.
The partnerships will provide support to drug treatment court staff, as well as services to assist with housing, social, vocational and other wraparound service needs of court participants.
Public Defender Leanne Lapp said the grant will help the county introduce a structured “alumni” support system for drug court graduates, as they transition from the highly supervised court system into new routines of productive self-sufficiency.
“This new program will help individuals transition into the community from a very structured court treatment setting by giving them access to mentors who have successfully gone through the program,” Lapp said. “The program will assist graduates with maintenance of a sober lifestyle, which will both benefit court alumni and promote the safety of the public.”
With grant funding, the drug treatment court will be able to support additional referrals. County officials said that will result in a projected 15 percent enrollment increase by 2020.
There are now 130 participants in the county’s drug court system — a strict, 180-day recovery regimen focused on stabilization, education, and self-motivation.
Court Resource Coordinator Betsey Lee, one of two people responsible for case management of drug court participants, said the grant is a testament to the collaborative spirit of the county.
“We have a great court and this will make it even better,” Lee said. “I always thought we could double the size because the need is out there. We couldn’t do that with our current staff. With the grant we will be able to enhance and expand what our courts are doing.”
Joining the public defender and district attorney in developing the drug court initiative outlined in the grant are Ontario County Probation and Community Corrections, and substance abuse counseling and recovery organizations such as Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes and Finger Lakes Area Counseling & Recovery Agency.
The county’s drug treatment court began in 2000 as a problem-solving court that accepts felony and misdemeanor referrals from criminal courts throughout the county. The court model holds participants accountable while addressing the issues of substance abuse that led to their criminal behavior.
More than 900 people, from every criminal court in the county, have gone through the program.
Ontario County is one of 72 communities nationwide to get the SAMSHA grant. The agency, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leads public health efforts to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.