How to reduce addiction

What happens when police and addiction centers find ways to get addicts into recovery? Everyone benefits.

Thank you for your humane, yet no-nonsense editorial that describes how law enforcement can work together with addiction treatment centers and programs ("Invitation to recovery," Jan. 27). The practice of inviting people with substance use disorders to come to a police station and get treatment is a cost-effective way to successfully tackle addiction. Lockup is not detox; being incarcerated in a cell does not provide the necessary clinical, therapeutic and spiritual needs that are essential for long-term recovery.

While some naysayers may think such a program is inappropriate for law enforcement, there is a positive history of police departments using unsworn officers or staff to handle these cases. Examples include victim assistance counselors, diversion program staff and others who provide the necessary human services that addicts and their families need to stay sober.

In the late 1980s, I worked as an unsworn employee for the Inglewood, Calif. police department. My role was to manage the juvenile diversion program for low-level offenders including those with first-time, non-violent drug offenses. The department's police officers as well as the juvenile court judges saw the diversion program as "second chance" opportunities for these young adults. Like all programs, the results weren't perfect. But the significantly reduced costs to the taxpayers and the retrieved lives and future law-abiding behavior of those offenders made our efforts worthwhile.

Analogously, the Gloucester, Mass. Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative and, if things go well, Baltimore's new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program will be models that all communities can tweak and adopt. Reducing and reversing the heroin and opioid epidemic requires an "all hands on deck" strategy.

Don Mathis, Havre de Grace

The writer is director of alumni services for Father Martin's Ashley.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad