Attorney General Andy Beshear says Kentuckians with substance abuse issues are more quickly getting the help they need thanks to the state's Rocket Docket program, which expedites low-level, drug-related offenses and shepherds defendants into drug treatment programs in lieu of incarceration.

Beshear said treatment for these low-level offenders is a key component in recovering from Kentucky's drug epidemic, not only for the offenders, but also for their families and communities; and removing them from the criminal justice system earlier is a significant cost savings for local county jails.

"Substance abuse is the biggest impediment to Kentucky's progress," Beshear said. "The drug epidemic has hit every community, where it continues to hurt our families and our economy; but Rocket Docket is easing the burden on the criminal justice system and helping addicts get help in the process."

Rocket Docket is a program that allows Commonwealth's and County Attorneys to identify appropriate defendants to send to drug treatment, providing them with faster access to the help they need and providing cost savings to the jails that do not have to house them. The Prosecutors Advisory Council (PAC), which Beshear chairs, administers the initiative.

PAC issued its final report on Rocket Dockets for fiscal year 2019 to the attorney general and the Public Safety Cabinet during its August 21 meeting at the Kentucky Prosecutors Conference in Covington. The council issued an interim report in January and the final report reflects additional data collected through May 2019.

Since its inception in July 2015, prosecutors have removed nearly 24,000 cases from the regular criminal docket, saving the time and resources of judges, clerks, prosecutors and public defenders and allowing for more focus on violent and more serious crimes.

The report shows that 61% of defendants in the 21,950 cases completed since the program was implemented were referred to some form of drug treatment. Those individuals identified through the Rocket Docket were typically referred to treatment much faster than the average drug defendant the report says.

Additionally, Beshear says, the program pays for itself in savings.

The combined investment in the Rocket Docket program since its beginning has been approximately $8.6 million according the report, with $2.8 million allotted for the program in fiscal year 2019. PAC estimates that the program has saved the Commonwealth at least $97.8 million after factoring in initial investment. The report indicates that Rocket Dockets have saved more than $46.5 million in fiscal year 2019 alone.

The 2018 general election resulted in some changes to County and Commonwealth's Attorneys. One judicial circuit left the program, but six additional circuits applied for and received grants in January. Altogether 41 of Kentucky's 57 judicial circuits participated during fiscal year 2019. Counties new to the program include Boyd, Boyle, Fayette, McCracken and Perry.