Against the back-drop of divisiveness about the relationship between the public and law enforcement, it is important to recognize the police departments and citizens working together to triumph over the greatest obstacles our communities face. All across America the words ‘protect and serve’ still mean something, and many of the brave men and women behind the badge are fighting to help addicts get a second chance.
The Gloucester Police Department in Massachusetts set an inspiring new precedence back in 2015 when they began an initiative to allow drug users come to the police to ask for help. Users were told they could submit drugs to local law enforcement without fear of punitive action, and ask for help getting into inpatient treatment. This amazing shift in approach created a new sense of compassion for the addicts struggling to get clean, setting up a new system to try and heal the community instead of punish it. Police helping addicts into treatment has since become a growing trend in several states as more and more officials realize that the old ways aren’t really working.
A study published December of 2016 in The New England Journal of Medicine found the Gloucester program was showing admirable success.
Community advocates, police officers and political officials across America have begun modeling new programs after this approach, while others are pushing for similar opportunities. Some of these programs have been especially successful, while others have not been particularly sought after. Checking in on the way different areas are handling the opioid crisis and overdose outbreak, these initiatives make us believe there is still hope on the horizon.
Programs with Police Helping Addicts into Treatment
Let’s look at some of the programs that have adopted this new approach to supporting their suffering neighbors instead of trying to punish their way out of the problem.
The Safe Passage program was also started 2 years ago by the Police Department of Dixon, Illinois. Since then it has extended to a few other close by counties. Safe Passage has helped place 170 people into treatment, and so far the Police Chief Danny Langloss reports that more than half of those who got access to treatment through the program have had success after rehab.
Chief Langloss claims that in 2016, misdemeanor and felony drug arrests dropped by 39%, and he believes Safe Passage had a lot to do with it.
A Way Out
Police helping addicts into treatment in Lake County have joined forces from several areas to offer participants a change to receive addiction treatment. A Way Out launched a year ago, and according to their sources an average of around 12 people a month have reached out for help through the program. If this went on for a steady 12 months that means at least 144 people have been given a chance at getting help.
A Way Out accepts participants no matter where they live. According to Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther some families have brought their loved ones from different states to get access to treatment. Some instances there have even been individuals with criminal charges who have their warrants waived to enter the program.
Connect for Life
Naperville, Illinois also has a strong force of police helping addicts into treatment. Their version, called Connect for Life, directly connects individuals in need of treatment with social workers and recovering addicts who have stayed clean after treatment called ‘recovery liaisons’.
The idea here is to stay connected with each individual through the process of finding treatment, and beyond that to help them with finding sober homes, employment opportunities and other resources.
Anaheim Police Department in California has its own program offering free treatment to any drug users willing to ask for help. Part of the Kindness initiative with police helping addicts into treatment is the offer to receive the Naltrexone implant, which is designed to block the effects of opioids and alcohol in the brain.
Law enforcement officials in Anaheim acknowledge that they cannot arrest away addiction. They are hopeful eliminating the fear of asking for help will be instrumental in saving more lives.
In Nashville, North Carolina the Police Department started an initiative called HOPE, modeled after the Gloucester Police Department’s program. Since it launched back in February of 2016, about 172 people from multiple states have sought treatment through HOPE.
Again, police notice a profound impact on their community, crediting a 40% drop in crimes related to substance use disorder to the HOPE program.
Chatham Cares 4 U
A year ago in July, the Chathman, New York Police Department teamed up with PAARI to create the Chatham Cares 4 U Outreach Initiative Program. The police helping addicts into treatment urged their communities to feel safe coming to the police station to turn over drugs and paraphernalia, and to ask for help with treatment.
Chatham Cares 4 U and the success it has brought to the community has inspired other police departments in the state to create similar addiction recovery initiatives in their communities. Chathman Police Chief Volkmann also travels around New York to speak to police departments and other organizations about the program.
Safe Stations Program
In Maryland, Anne Arundel County Police and Fire Departments are collaborating with the Annapolis Police and Fire Departments to offer help to drug users in their area. The Safe Stations program launched in April of this year, opening the doors to the combined 38 stations for individuals seeking help with their addiction. Safe Stations was the first of its kind in Maryland, with locations open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to people needing help.
In just the few months it has been open, this initiative of police helping addicts into treatment has already placed over 18 people into treatment.
The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative
The PAARI program is a nationwide nonprofit organization that was started to support any local police departments in their efforts to work with opioid addicts. In the midst of the opioid epidemic there has been a massive movement toward innovative strategies for helping people, and the PAARI united after the Gloucester Police Department instituted their revolutionary program to focus on saving lives and changing them for the better.
The PAARI works with various elements across the country, including:
- The medical community
- Science-based recovery programs
- Police departments
PAARI is made up of private citizens, philanthropists, business owners, law enforcement leaders, and prominent members of the academic community who all share the same mission of helping those addicted to drugs in their area get the help they desperately need. PAARI coordinates with volunteers, corporate partners and treatment centers, along with police helping addicts into treatment.
The first annual report for the PAARI made a very exciting statement, saying:
“Communities that have joined PAARI have observed as much as a 25% reduction in crimes associated with addiction, cost savings by diverting people into treatment rather than triggering the criminal justice system, as well as an enormous increase in trust from their communities.”
Participants in the program speak in overwhelming praise of the PAARI program’s methods.
More Compassion Changing the World
While some people are still pushing the argument that ‘tough on crime’ and the War on Drugs are the best way to end the addiction issue, we have seen time and time again that we cannot punish and imprison our way out of addiction. Compassionate programs using community resources to help people get better instead of making their lives worse seems like a better way of taking care of each other.
We are happy to see so many police helping addicts into treatment all over the country, and we hope more communities chose to use resources to help those struggling find a chance to change their lives.