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Goal of nation’s first opioid court: Keep users alive

BUFFALO, N.Y.  — Buffalo, New York, is home to the nation’s first opioid crisis intervention court, an experimental program that puts users under faster, stricter supervision than ordinary drug courts, all with the goal of keeping them alive.

Users get into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of days, must check in with a judge every day for a month instead of once a week and abide by strict curfews.

Funded with a $300,000 Justice Department grant, the program began May 1 with the intent of treating 200 people in a year and providing a model that can be replicated in other heroin-wracked cities.

Buffalo officials blamed 300 deaths on opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 127 two years earlier. That includes three drug court defendants who overdosed in a single week.