Federal funds coming to St. Louis will be used to address opioid crisis

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis City’s diversion program is aimed to help low-level, non-violent offenders struggling with addiction.

“It’s about public safety and we have to address the opioid crisis because lives are lost every day,” said St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

The program was launched started prior to the pandemic and is aimed at addressing a problem all too familiar in Missouri – opioids.

“In the City of St. Louis, we have more opioid deaths than murders in our city,” Gardner said. “And we have an uptick since the COVID-19 pandemic of over 30% of the deaths rising.”

The circuit attorney said the federal funds were put on hold because of the pandemic.

“We were one of the recipients of a $1.5 million Bureau of Justice Assistance grant, along with St. Louis County,” she said. “We both won in the region to address the opioid deaths.”

The money will be available to help low-level, non-violent offenders struggling with addiction.

“One of the things we want to do is address – triage in low-level, non-violent cases, people who are addicted to getting them services, and help in the community as well as saving lives, and that’s the key,” Gardner said.

She said people who battle with addiction can learn from the STL Can Do diversion program and avoid making the same mistakes.

“They’re less likely to come back to the criminal justice system, they’re more likely to seek community-based treatment, as well as health care access through our programs and actually attain jobs,” she said.

Gardner hopes this program will eventually grow and provide more measures to the city.

“This utilizes more resources so we can embed even more health care professionals inside the criminal justice ecosystem and deliver actual holistic care that’s appropriate for public safety,” she said.

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