Opioid Intervention Court

Jacobs School faculty lend their expertise to the nation’s first Opioid Intervention Court, initiated in Buffalo in 2017.

Nation’s First Public Health Court Model

The Opioid Intervention Court (OIC) model was an Erie County public health response to three drug court individuals fatally overdosing before their second court appearance in a single week in 2016. The traditional drug court model (with weekly appearances) needed to be modified to save lives during the opioid epidemic.

With the help of UB collaborators, the OIC model was designed to get non-violent users into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of weeks. It requires daily check-ins with the judge and focuses on immediate medication-assisted treatment. Once stable, participants are either transferred to the traditional drug courts or their cases are dismissed.

The Department of Family Medicine and its Primary Care Research Institute (PCRI) have been long-term partners with Erie County and many stakeholders in the Erie County Opioid Epidemic Task Force that includes the NYS Unified Court System, Eighth Judicial District.

The Department of Family Medicine’s national experts in addiction medicine assisted the Court in establishing new protocols for a judicially supervised triage program where participants are linked immediately with treatment within hours of their arrest.

The OIC immediately identifies those at risk of overdose and works daily to give them the tools and knowledge to “jump start” their path to recovery. The OIC diverts the participants at arraignment and holds criminal charges in abeyance to enable the clients to focus on initiating their recovery from opioid use disorder.

Over the last decade, the Erie County Department of Mental Health, with the help of the PCRI, created the HOPE (The Healthy Outcomes Partnership and Education) program of Erie County to provide critical time intervention for justice-involved individuals. 

This UB community collaboration set the stage for UB’s role in assisting with the establishment of the nation’s first Opioid Intervention Court model, which was funded through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice.