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Broome County program connects people charged with low-level crimes to addiction treatment

Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
The program, called "Motivation to Change", is a partnership between the district attorney and the county sheriff’s office.

A program from the Broome County district attorney, the sheriff’s office, and Helio Health connects people with substance use disorders who are charged with low-level crimes to treatment for addiction.

The program, called "Motivation to Change", was rolled out last month. People with nonviolent offenses who are being arraigned at Broome County correctional facility can choose to access Helio Health’s inpatient and detox programs.

Broome County District Attorney Paul Battisti said under the program, people remanded to the jail, who would normally end up waiting for addiction treatment, can access inpatient or detox programs at Helio Health.

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the sheriff's department and our community partners, a lot of those individuals sit incarcerated waiting up to two months for evaluations and sometimes even longer to get into treatment,” Battisti said.

Battisti said the program only applies to people charged with low-level offenses. After their arraignment at the jail, participants are transported to Helio Health, where they either go to a five-to-seven day detox program or 28-day inpatient treatment. After that, Battisti said a judge would decide whether the person qualifies for adult treatment court as a next step.

Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar said nearly 35% of people in the jail are struggling with a substance use disorder. He said the jail does offer treatment for addiction, but he added some people inside the jail may end up waiting longer than they would otherwise.

“Oftentimes within the confines of the facility, it can be up to 60 days before they're getting their assessment and getting on track to be put into a program as they make their way through the criminal justice system,” Akshar said.

Helio Health arranges transportation to court dates and appearances.

It is not clear how many people arraigned at the jail have participated in the program so far. The district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for that information.