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Martin announces program to aid those with substance use disorder

District Attorney Jim Martin announced Aug. 4 a new program his office is establishing to treat individuals entering the criminal justice system affected by substance use disorder with the goal to find them treatment and other services.

The program, Rapid Assessment Divert to Treatment, is a collaborative effort between the district attorney, Lehigh Valley Pretrial Services, Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol, Lehigh County Jail, Lehigh County Public Defender’s Office and the Lehigh County Adult Probation Office.

The program is designed to provide evaluations and services not long after a person is arrested with the goal of finding them treatment that, if successfully completed, may allow their criminal charges to be reduced or disposed of before the case reaches the Court of Common Pleas.

Lehigh County continues to innovate and implement ways to address individual and community needs in an effort to reduce criminal behavior.

The R.A.D.T. program is just one of many programs Lehigh County will use to achieve those goals.

District Attorney Martin thanks all of the county offices for their agreement to participate in this program.

“This program has the potential to be a life-altering experience for many people,” Martin said.

Participation in the program is voluntary and does not require any formal finding of guilt.

The program will identify individuals upon their entry into the criminal justice system with drug addictions and rapidly obtain a drug and alcohol evaluation.

Referrals to R.A.D.T. can come from anyone.

The R.A.D.T. program will focus on the population of individuals who do not have an extensive criminal history and under most circumstances, would not be recommended for participation in the Drug Court.

Based upon the recommended course of treatment, the program will then divert participants to the appropriate inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Additional services will also be provided with the hope of preventing further criminal behavior and to reduce addiction to controlled substances and/or substance use disorders.

The R.A.D.T. program is modeled after the existing Team MISA (Mental Illness Substance Abuse) that has successfully navigated the intersection of criminal behavior, mental health and intellectual disability for the past 17 years.

The R.A.D.T. program, like Team MISA, is a zero-base budget program and providers are funded through their respective offices.

The program is designed to efficiently connect all available resources to a specific population set that is in need of treatment.

County participants meet weekly to review recommended cases and to determine the appropriateness for participation in R.A.D.T.

The District Attorney’s Office will review each case and consider a person’s criminal history, current charge and recommended need for treatment.

When appropriate, an assistant district attorney will facilitate bail modification to permit individuals to go into treatment.

Those recommended for the program who may also have an existing probation or parole violation pending will be simultaneously reviewed by Adult Probation to determine its position regarding participating in R.A.D.T.

Lehigh Valley Pretrial Services is involved at the outset as most of the referrals to the program will originate through that office and those participants released on bail will be supervised by Pretrial Services.

Lehigh County Jail will provide information on a participant’s behavior in jail and whether they are experiencing symptoms of detoxing from a controlled substance.

The hope is to place a participant in a treatment program to avoid detoxing in jail if possible.

Once a participant is on bail and connected with treatment, they will be monitored by the program to ensure successful compliance with recommended treatment.

If a person fails to complete treatment or violates bail, a request to revoke bail will be pursued.

In the case of successful treatment, the district attorney may, at his discretion and where appropriate, dismiss a charge, reduce a charge or seek a sentence reduction, or seek to recommend a sentence appropriate with the person’s need for treatment, current charge and criminal history.

The district attorney is also considering ways to use funds from the settlement of his claims in the opioid lawsuits.

Those funds may be considered to be used by the district attorney to provide scholarships to appropriate inpatient programs to cover some or all of the treatment expenses for qualified individuals who lack insurance or finances sufficient to cover the expense of treatment.