- Associated Press - Thursday, September 28, 2017

BOSTON (AP) - The Latest on a program in Massachusetts to allow low-level drug offenders to choose treatment in lieu of prosecution (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

A new program will offer buyers swept up in drug trafficking surveillance in Worcester the choice of avoiding arrest if they agree to enter treatment.

State and local officials say the goal of the “Buyer Diversion Treatment Alternative” announced on Thursday is to nudge more lower-level drug offenders away from the criminal justice system and toward recovery from addiction. Dealers would still be arrested and prosecuted, as would drug buyers with violent criminal backgrounds.

Officials describe the initiative as another effort to curb the deadly opioid addiction crisis. State health officials say Worcester had 268 confirmed fatal opioid overdoses from 2012 to 2016.

The program is the first of its kind in Massachusetts but could be tested elsewhere if it’s successful.

Several U.S. cities including Seattle and Baltimore have similar initiatives.

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12:11 a.m.

A new program will offer many people who purchase illegal drugs in Worcester a choice between prosecution and treatment.

State and local officials say the goal of the “Buyer Diversion Treatment Alternative,” being announced Thursday, is to nudge more lower-level drug offenders away from the criminal justice system and toward recovery from addiction. Dealers would still be arrested and prosecuted, as would drug buyers with violent criminal backgrounds.

Officials describe the initiative as another effort to curb the deadly opioid addiction crisis. State health officials say Worcester had 268 confirmed fatal opioid overdoses from 2012-2016.

Officials say the program is the first of its kind in the state but, if successful, could be tested elsewhere.

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