‘Treating Addiction Can Reduce Criminal Justice Costs’

From Potter County Today

dictionaryaddictionA recognized authority on addiction treatment urged county officials from across Pennsylvania to change some of the ways they are administering criminal justice. Dr. Michael T. Flaherty told members of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania that providing more effective treatment to offenders with addiction to alcohol or other drugs would reduce the number of jail inmates and reduce costs to counties. Flaherty, a clinical psychologist, is executive director of the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions. He made a strong case for locally controlled strategies to reduce the number of repeat offenders by providing treatment for those with mental health or addiction issues.

“This is a controversial topic and not everyone sees it the same way,” Dr. Flaherty acknowledged. “But one thing is very clear — there is not enough money to sustain our current prison system. We need to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. I am absolutely convinced that the recovery model is the answer.”

Society pays a high price today because only about 20 percent of people who need clinical treatment are receiving it, he added, and services for many of those are often inadequate. He suggested development of county-based strategies that involve prosecutors, mental health professionals, the courts, commissioners, jail administrators, community-based organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and others.

“As a county, whether you like it or not, you are the safety net for many people in Pennsylvania,” Dr. Flaherty said. “If you bring together individuals who have different viewpoints and expertise or experience, your program will be more effective, your prospects for success will be higher, and you’ll  establish more trust among people who often do not see eye to eye on certain fundamental issues of criminal justice and treatment options.”

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.

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