“This Program is about Saving Lives," said Staten Island's District Attorney, Michael McMahon, who took another step to fight the borough’s drug crisis.
Local leaders, joined the D.A. to announce a new program called H.O.P.E., or ‘The Heroin Overdose and Prevention Education Program,” at the D.A’s office in St. George Wednesday.
It offers low-level drug offenders treatment, instead of jail.
"When they're arrested waiting at the police station, a peer mentor will come and say look, theres a way out, there's hope to get your life back on track,” said McMahon.
It's the first program of it's kind in the State.
Those arrested for drug possession get trained on how to use Nalaxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose.
Then, they have a week to meet with a counselor and enroll in a treatment program. If they do. They don't have to go to court. If they succeed, The DA's office can decide not to prosecute their case.
“If you think, Staten Island, that we can arrest our way out of this epidemic, you are mistaken. We have to attack it from different ways,” said Borough President James Oddo.
More than 100 people fatally overdosed on Staten Island since January of last year, including Ann Marie Perrotto’s son. He overdosed on prescription pills after a sports injury. It lead her to create Christopher's Reason. One of two recovery centers where people in the program can go.
“Save another life and don't let another family go through this,” said Ann Marie Perrotto, Son Died from Drug Overdose.
Staten Island's District Attorney says another big benefit of the program, is helping people avoid criminal records, which can prevent them from getting their dream job, a scholarship, or even an apartment.
“Normally there would be a misdemeanor, a letter that sticks with them forever, if they wanted to be a teacher or police officer probably wouldn't happen,” said McMahon.
In the three weeks since the program was first implemented, 28 people have agreed to take part in H.O.P.E.
The DA says, they're already seeing success, seven of those cases have been dropped.