HEART program for heroin expected to pay for itselfJune 26, 2021
KENTON COUNTY, Ky. (Joe Webb) — The local heroin epidemic baffles police, prosecutors and treatment professionals who are working to find a solution.A northern Kentucky county has launched a program that would put heroin offenders directly into treatment instead of jail. It’s called HEART: Heroin Expedited Addiction Recovery Treatment, and it started Monday, May 11, in Kenton County.Kenton County has ponied up 0,000 to start the project but they think it will pay for itself and actually save money by keeping non-violent drug offenders out of jail. It started Monday and they already have seven people who qualify. It’s a sign of the times when syringes litter Covington parking lots along with cigarette butts and beer bottles. It’s also a sign of the times that 75 percent of the new felony prisoners are in jail on addiction-related charges. It’s also a sign of the times that a career defense attorney has joined forces with the career prosecutor to come up with the plan they call HEART. Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney, Rob Sanders, said, If you are selling drugs or you make someone else into a crime victim you do not qualify. If you’re locked up for possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia or that sort of thing, you are only in there for making a victim of yourself, these are the people that are going to qualify.Under the HEART program, someone arrested for heroin possession would, after an evaluation, qualify for release if they go into a monitored treatment program. It’s something heroin advocates have been lobbying for. Noel Stegner of Northern Kentucky Hates Heroin said, Sitting in jail for two or three months waiting for a court date gains nothing for them. This is the beginning of, I think, our community beginning to understand that addiction is a disease.Proponents say it will work for a couple of reasons. First it will pay for itself by saving the county the 5 it pays every day to lock people up. It also works because veteran defense attorney Burr Travis is volunteering in Sanders office to run the program for no charge.I’ve got some personal family has been involved in addiction. My parents were involved in various addictions. I know a lot of people that were involved and I’ve got a special gift to help here and this is just a unique opportunity, said Travis. The people in the HEART program are not given a free pass. They will be prosecuted and face probation or jail time for their crimes they just won’t be locked up waiting for trial. The program gets them into treatment if they stick with it that can mean a lot when they ultimately face a judge.Under the new program, the offenders who qualify will be evaluated the Monday after their arrest. They will have a preliminary hearing Wednesday and Thursday morning, they will board a bus at the jail that takes them directly to their treatment program. Follow Joe Webb on Twitter @joewebbwkrc, and LIKE him on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @Local12 and LIKE us on Facebook for updates!