In 2016, Staten Island had the highest overdose rate in New York City. In response, the Richmond County District Attorney, Michael E. McMahon, in partnership with the New York City Police Department, other city agencies, and community organizations on Staten Island, developed the Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education (HOPE) program. HOPE offers pre-arraignment diversion services for individuals arrested for a low-level, substance-related crime.
Fostering a Community-wide Approach to Court Diversion
The development of the HOPE program was a nine-month collaborative planning effort. Spearheaded by the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office, partners included:
- Office of the Staten Island Borough President
- New York City Police Department
- NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
- Legal Aid Society
- Staten Island Performing Provider System, an alliance of clinical and social service providers
- Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness
- Resource and Recovery Center sites: Christopher’s Reason, Community Health Action of Staten Island, and Staten Island YMCA
The HOPE program offers a diversion from the court if participants choose to join the program. They also receive an assessment from Resource and Recovery Center staff within seven days of their Desk Appearance Ticket. They meaningfully engage with services within 37 days of their arrest. The ultimate goal is to connect participants to the services on Staten Island and encourage continued engagement after program completion.
Recruitment into the program—predicated on an eligible arrest—is supported by outreach from the District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Police Department. They share responsibility for informing potential participants of their eligibility. This is followed by an immediate engagement contact by a peer recovery coach (a peer mentor); and, if engaged, intake at a Resource and Recovery Center for assessment and development of a service plan. Service plans may include a range of services, including participation in harm reduction programs, substance use treatment, benefits counseling, and referrals to other providers. Participants considered to have completed the program have their cases dismissed and avoid a criminal record.
Assessing Early Implementation of the HOPE Program
Seeking to understand how the new program was being implemented and identify early results, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice engaged Metis.
The mixed-method evaluation examined program model delivery, as well as participant outcomes during the formative program stage. The Metis team collected data from interviews with partner organization representatives, program staff, and participants, and administrative data files. Metis examined the program’s assumptions and structure, participants’ pathways into and experiences with the program, and the results of their engagement.
The final report included findings, recommendations for program improvement, implications for program replication, and topics for further study. In response, District Attorney McMahon said, “One of the most effective tools to combat Staten Island’s terrible opioid crisis is our HOPE program, which continues to grow and evolve to serve better individuals struggling with substance abuse disorder. We are greatly encouraged by the findings detailed in this independent report. Not only does this analysis highlight the myriad success stories behind HOPE, it also provides a blueprint to help us both strengthen and improve the program, many of which I am proud to say have already been implemented over the past year.” (Press release, March 28, 2019).