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In Ft. Mitchell, New Heroin Treatment Program, SD1 Discussed

Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders presented his H.E.A.R.T (Heroin Expedited Addiction Recovery Treatment) program at Monday evening’s Fort Mitchell City Council meeting will be a crucial step in the right direction for a problem that hits close to home for many.

Designed to lessen the time drug offenders spend behind bars without treatment, the program is meant to help them take the first step on the road to recovery; often times, the hardest. 

Sanders explained the process to council: All cases -- felony or misdemeanor -- enter into district court, he said. After a defendant’s case has made its way through the legal system and final sentencing, they enter into felony diversion, felony probation, or prison. “The difference in Kentucky between probation and diversion is if you finish diversion, you are not considered a convicted felon, whereas probation is supervised release, where you don’t have to go to prison. But at the end of probation, you’re still a convicted felon,” he said.

Diversion is similar to probation, Sanders added, because they report to an officer and the officer conducts home visits. The difference? If the program is successfully completed, their case is dismissed and they are no longer a convicted felon.

As the H.E.A.R.T program is implemented, Sanders said the time from an initial arrest to final sentencing will be 129-291 days, a potential life-saving measure, he added. But during that time, the person will immediately be admitted into a treatment program. Before, the Commonwealth’s Attorney said,  “judges were treating cases just like they had for methamphetamine or cocaine, or any of the other number of hard drugs we had seen where they were letting the defendants out on bond, awaiting the outcome of their case.”

The problem with that, he said, heroin addicts that had been released were arrested again on new charges, or worse, dying of overdoses, while waiting on their cases to make it through the system. 

Seeing this problem, judges began to set offenders’ bail higher, keeping them behind bars, to protect them from themselves and the community. 

Taxpayers will not pay a dime towards the program because North Key is providing outpatient care free-of-charge to inmates until grant funding provided by Transitions kicks in. Sanders expressed confidence the program would pay for itself over time but said his primary concern was getting folks into treatment and “doing anything we can to help slow down and put the brakes on this heroin epidemic. I don’t know that this program is going to cure it by any stretch of the imagination but, every person that we get into it… that’s a small victory. Making a substantial improvement is lots of small victories.”

Also on the minds of Fort Mitchell residents: sewers and Sanitation District #1 (SD1). Recently, the organization decided not to pay for sewer laterals on city streets, upsetting citizens and council members alike. “SD1 is the most mismanaged, quasi-government entity we have,” council member Denny Zahler said, accused SD1of trying to undermine the community every chance it has had since it took over the city’s sewers. The motion to have SD #1 reconsider its decision to withhold funds from the project was subsequently passed by council.

Written by Jason Finnell, RCN contributor

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