• Home

Cornwell Aims to Save Lives With Operation S.A.F.E.

By Kerry Longobucco.
A lack of available treatment has become a local crisis as the heroin epidemic ravages the Southern Tier. The Broome County District Attorney's Office is launching a new program that will get addicts help, rather than putting them in handcuffs.

The new initiative is called Operation S.A.F.E. (Saving Addicts From Epidemic.) The Broome County District Attorney's Office is the first D.A.'s office nationwide to create such a program.

Operation S.A.F.E. will focus on crime prevention, by taking users off the streets and putting them in treatment. The D.A.'s office will help addicts who are seeking treatment find long-term care outside of New York, at low or no cost to the addict. Officials say treatment in our state is hard to find -- and often, too expensive.

Operation safe is modeled after one the Cooperstown Police Department began in November. Both are part of the Angel program that began in Gloucester, MA.

Cooperstown's chief of police, and Broome County D.A. Steve Cornwell (R), say beating an addiction doesn't happen quickly, or easily -- which is why long term care is so critical.

"If you have a broken arm, it takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal, and you put that in a cast. You don't do it for 14 days and take the cast off," Cooperstown Police Chief Mike Covert said. "The same thing goes with our brain. We have to let it heal, and it takes a longer time in rehab to do that."

"They're more than just a 30 day program. The longer term programs can be six months, nine months, twelve months, eighteen months," Cornwell said. "There are different models throughout the country, based on these treatment facilities, and they have very high success rates."

Covert says the program has been wildly successful in his community -- and he expects similar results in Broome.

"Every day, I have people calling in, two to three a day. Some people just inquire and ask, and don't commit to it -- other people inquire and ask and want to come right in to the program," Covert said. "I've had everybody from addicts that are 21, to 39, sitting there asking me for help.

"You don't want to do a life sentence at the Broome County jail, a year at a time. You don't want to end up dead like some friends, and other people that you know," Cornwell said. "I can assure them, if they come to us, they're going to get help. They don't have to fear prosecution for coming and admitting they're a drug addict."

Cornwell says he'll use drug forfeiture and traffic diversion funding to help cover costs for uninsured patients.

Convicted sex offenders, people with active warrants, and those currently enrolled in Broome County Drug Court are not eligible for the program.

If you, or someone you love, is seeking treatment, call Broome County's S.A.F.E. Line at 607-778-6119.