NewsPasco County


Drug diversion programs keep offenders out of jail, treat addiction

Posted at 6:40 PM, Oct 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 20:18:30-04

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- Richard Thomas says he knew he hit rock bottom when no one in his family wanted him around.

“I’d go back to my family and say I just wanted to spend time with my grandma. Or I just want to spend time with my cousinand they even wouldn’t let me on the property because I was so far gone.”

Thomas’ addictions led to criminal trouble. He was facing five years in prison.

But a judge gave him the option of drug diversion program. That brought him to the Rockland Treatment Center in New Port Richey.

Brian Zitt went through a program like this to break his addiction. Now he helps run Rockland.

“Giving them a new way of life they never new existed. Not sending them in the same environment that put them in jail in the first place.”

This treatment program services cases in Pasco and Pinellas County.

And now, Tampa city leaders are expected to approve the use of a $900,000 grand for a new opioid diversion program to re-direct low level offenders.

The hope is this will improve public safety and reduce criminal behavior.

Richard says the the therapy and treatment here really works.

“Anybody can put down a drink and stay away from it. But if you don’t fix some things inside, then you are going to live a sober miserable life," said Thomas.

Now he’s planning on the future, going to college and a career as a welder.

“If you don’t sort this stuff when your my age. It’s gonna be a lot harder when you twice my age," said Thomas.

Rockland has 30 beds available at their facilities and anxious to help with Tampa’s new program