SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – A new court specifically aimed at helping individuals addicted to opioids has started in the city of Syracuse. It’s meant to cope with an opioid addiction crisis that has ballooned in recent years.
The opioid court started late last week with three cases already on the docket. Syracuse City Court Judge Rory McMahon will preside, meeting with individuals accused of a crime, who are also addicted to opioids.
“We suspend all prosecution, which means the clock ends,” said McMahon. “It’s not about guilty or not guilty. It’s not about motions, it’s not about suppressions, it’s not about search. It’s about suspending that, getting them into treatment immediately.”
McMahon likens the opioid court to an emergency room.
“This is, get them in, get them a script right away, get them therapy, get them hooked up with a program,” McMahon said. “And they’re going to meet with me every day to tell me how they’re doing. They’re going to be telling me, not their attorney. This is between me and them most of the time. Nothing is recorded so nothing they say will be held against them.”
The Onondaga County District Attorney’s office can determine in the morning whether someone facing a crime is a good candidate for the opioid court. That afternoon, they meet McMahon. And although the court will begin with people accused of misdemeanors, District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick expects accused felons could be added to the mix.
“We’re looking for the person who is non-violent, even if they have a record. But who recognizes they have to get out of the cycle of in and out of jail, in jail, commit a crime, out jail,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s going to be intense.”
When McMahon meets with those individuals every day for several weeks, what he wants to hear is honesty.
“The goal is to find out are they still at risk. Are they accepting the program, Are they working to better themselves. The goal is to have them see one more sunset. Just one more sunset,” he said.
Initially, the opioid court covers only the city of Syracuse. Officials want to expand it not only to the rest of Onondaga County but regionally as well. Syracuse is the sixth opioid court in the state meant to deal with the burgeoning opioid addiction crisis.