Beshear: Rocket Dockets Getting Kentuckians into Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Faster
Attorney General Andy Beshear says Kentuckians facing drug-related offenses are getting into substance abuse treatment programs faster because of the effectiveness of the state’s Rocket Docket programs.
Beshear said treatment is paramount for these Kentuckians, their families and their communities if the state is to recover from its current drug epidemic.
Rocket Docket is a program that permits a local commonwealth’s attorney or county attorney to expedite cases through the judicial system. It also allows select defendants rapid access to substance abuse treatment, generating significant cost savings to local county jails.
The information on the effectiveness of Kentucky’s more than 30 Rocket Docket programs was provided to Beshear’s office by the Prosecutors Advisory Council or PAC, which Beshear chairs.
The Jan. 17, 2019, PAC report examines data from July 16, 2015, when the Rocket Docket program began, to Nov. 30, 2018, – a 40-month period.
At the inception of the program, the Department of Corrections reported a felony drug offender spent on average 115 days in a local jail. As of Nov. 30, 2018, an offender spent 21 days in jail – a 94-day difference, according to the report.
“Substance abuse is Kentucky’s most overpowering, prevalent problem,” Beshear said. “It’s impacting every community, hurting families and our economy, and putting law enforcement in danger. Rocket Docket programs are clearly helping us with this battle by providing treatment to Kentuckians quicker so they can take back their life from this debilitating epidemic.”
Beshear said the programs are saving the state money, too.
Based on the data presented to PAC, more than 18,300 cases have moved through the Rocket Docket programs over the 40-month period. Had offenders remained in jail the 115 days, the cost would have been $98.9 million; however, since the cases continue to be expedited in 21 days, the cost is $16.6 million – an $82 million savings.
According to the report, of the 18,300 cases completed through the Rocket Docket programs, nearly 10,800 defendants were identified, assessed and sent to substance abuse treatment. The report says this equates to 60 percent of defendants being referred to some form of treatment.
The report said PAC funded three new Rocket Dockets in Bell, Henderson, Marion and Taylor counties. This brings the total number of Rocket Dockets in Kentucky to 35 programs. PAC recently voted to allow a second grant application cycle in February to allow newly-elected county and commonwealth’s attorneys to apply for funding in their circuits.
“The Prosecutors Advisory Council Rocket Docket Program’s success cannot be measured in just the amount of money that it has saved the state but must also reflect its constructive impact for the people who are participating in it,” said PAC Executive Director Bobby Stokes. “In both measures, its success is undeniable and borne out by the fact that the Rocket Docket Program has tripled in award recipients in just three years.”
The General Assembly approved Beshear’s 2016 request to use funds his office recovered from a lawsuit settlement with drugmaker Risperdal to support the Rocket Docket program.
Since taking office, Beshear has made addressing Kentucky’s substance abuse epidemic a core mission.
Beshear committed $8 million from a lawsuit the AG’s office won against the opioid drugmaker of OxyContin to support 15 high-quality substance abuse treatment centers and organizations serving more than 50 communities.
His office is currently transferring $1.5 million of from the same settlement to the Kentucky Justice Cabinet to support Operation UNITE, a nonprofit serving 32 southern and eastern Kentucky counties in preventing drug abuse and facilitating treatment.
Beshear has filed lawsuits against nine pharmaceutical companies – AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Insys, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Mallinckrodt, McKesson Corporation, Teva and Walgreens – on state law allegations that they directly contributed to the state’s drug epidemic.
Beshear has filed the lawsuits in Boone, Fayette, Franklin (two lawsuits), Floyd, Hardin, Jefferson, Madison and McCracken. Kentucky now leads the nation in the number of individual opioid lawsuits filed by an attorney general.
Beshear said if the companies are not willing to reach a settlement for the alleged harm they have caused statewide, he wants each case to go before a Kentucky jury.