GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) (5/20/2019) - "There's a significant amount of crime that's related to drug use, whether it's just the simple possession of the controlled substance, but there's a lot of breaking and entering, home invasions, armed robberies, retail fraud," explained Genesee County Judge Mark Latchana.
He runs the County's Adult Felony Drug Court. The Judge said when you take care of the problem, the criminal activity stops.
"We're all better if we move people from addiction to recovery. Our communities are safer. We have more people out working, contributing to our tax base, and contributing their talents to our community," he explained."
The program has successfully done that since 2003. Judge Latchana said they graduate about 65-percent of the participants.
He announced Monday Genesee County is one of 48 counties chosen across the U.S. to receive a 5-year grant, worth $2-million. It will help them continue their work, focusing on 40 people over 5 years.
"And, attempt to engage them in longer term treatment, as well as pay for additional testing and outpatient therapy. So that we can track them, and see if the investment of this additional money is going to make their outcomes better," Judge Latchana said.
He added the money is critical, as the opioid epidemic continues to grow. Right now the Judge said 60 to 70-percent of the participants are addicted to opioids.
"We have discovered over years of study that putting folks in jail and prison, doesn't stop addiction. It suspends it for the time that they are locked up, but by and large, the vast majority of addicts will go out and recommit offenses and become addicted as soon as they're released," he explained.
Plus he said, it's expensive. To house someone in jail or prison for a year costs $32,000. To put them through the drug court program, only costs $8,000.
"You know, twice as effective and one quarter of the cost," he said. "And, that doesn't even take into account returning these people to their employment and their lives and their families and just the investment in their talent that comes back to our community."