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New Addiction Treatment Program Quickly Becomes Controversial

By Kerry Longobucco.
One day after the Broome County District Attorney's Office launched a new addiction treatment program, the initiative is drawing ire from county officials.

District Attorney Steve Cornwell (R) introduced the new program, Operation S.A.F.E. (Saving Addicts From Epidemic), on Monday. The initiative intends to help users get off the streets, and put them in long-term care outside of New York -- at low or no cost to the addict.

But county officials say they already had a similar plan in the works, set to roll out this spring.

“We are happy to see that the DA is concerned about drug addiction problems in our community," Deputy Broome County Executive John Bernardo said in a statement. "We would be ever happier if we were aware of the DA’s plans with respect to this initiative, as the Broome Opioid Abuse Council, or BOAC, and the Sheriff’s office has been working on a similar program which will be ready to launch in April. This action, although well intentioned, may cause confusion in what is already a complicated treatment process. We invite the DA to come in for a meeting so we can sit down and work together on a solution with the best interest of the community in mind.”

But Cornwell, who says he was never included in the county's plan, says people are dying -- and treatment can't wait.

"I've seen no action from the county, and I've waited long enough. I'm here to protect the people of Broome County, and this will do it," Cornwell said. "I'm not going to allow an executive to impede public safety. I'm going to move forward."

Cornwell says even if there are two separate programs -- it will only mean more treatment options for addicts who desperately need help.

"It's just more options to save more lives, and that's what we need to do. But I can't wait for politicians and bureaucrats to sit around a round table, and figure out how to get the job done," Cornwell said. "I'll do it myself. It took me a week to develop the program. It's not that difficult."

Bernardo was unavailable for an on-camera interview Tuesday, but says he hopes to set up a meeting with the D.A. soon to discuss all programs. Cornwell says he would welcome the county's support in collaborating on Operation S.A.F.E.