Louisiana lawmakers back bill to widen state’s drug courts

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana will seek to expand its specialized drug courts using the proceeds from opioid-related lawsuits, under a measure that received final passage from lawmakers.

The bill from Sen. Rick Ward, a Port Allen Republican, won unanimous support in the House and the Senate to head to the governor’s desk.

The legislation creates a drug and specialty court fund in the state treasury to deposit money recovered from litigation against or settlements involving the opioid industry. Those dollars will be used to expand drug courts across Louisiana, in which judges give some people arrested for crimes the option of substance abuse treatment and heavy supervision as an alternative to jail time.

The expansion would begin a year after the balance of the fund reaches $10 million.

The measure was backed by Attorney General Jeff Landry as a way to respond to drug abuse caused by the opioid epidemic. Landry’s office will oversee the fund and disburse the money through grant awards.

“Drug and specialty courts hold people accountable and connect them to evidence-based treatment -– something that protects public safety and promotes public health,” Landry, a Republican, said in a statement.

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The bill is filed as Senate Bill 145.

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