NEW BRITAIN - In just over three months, the New Britain Heroin, Opioid Prevention, and Education Initiative or H.O.P.E has helped 24 people struggling with addiction get connected to treatment services, Mayor Erin Stewart said in a statement on Tuesday.
The H.O.P.E program allows police officers to use leniency and discretion while making opioid related arrests. They are allowed to forgo a possession or paraphernalia charge in order to get a person into treatment. Officers working the front desk of police stations have also been trained to provide those in need with addiction services.
Police and emergency responders are encouraged to bring individuals struggling with addiction to an emergency room where they will be assessed for appropriate treatment. They are also offered a recovery coach and access to wrap around services, according to the press release.
Through H.O.P.E, individuals struggling with addiction are also encouraged to reach out to officers without the fear of arrest.
“In a short amount of time, we are already seeing positive signs that individuals are reaching out and getting the help they need,” said Mayor Erin Stewart. “This is a public health crisis that requires a unique community partnership model like H.O.P.E. in order to transform lives.”
The New Britain Police reported the following occurrences between the dates of Nov. 20, 2018 through Feb. 27, 2019.
Six individuals were transported by the police to medical care, seven incidents involving the seizure of drugs and no arrests were made in lieu of treatment. There were 14 referrals to social services, 13 transports by medics following a referral by police, and four incidents in which individuals flagged police down for help and a referral.
“Individuals who are struggling with opioid addiction can’t be arrested into getting better. This shift in the way that we interact with members of the community is changing the way that residents interact with law enforcement. They are viewing us in a new light and realizing that we can be a valuable resource on their path towards recovery,” said Acting Deputy Chief Christopher Chute.
In November 2018, New Britain partnered with the State’s Attorney’s office and several area service providers to create a coordinated pathway to treatment and recovery for individuals struggling with heroin and opioid addictions. Some of the partners included are the New Britain and Berlin police departments, the New Britain Fire Department, and the Hospital of Central Connecticut, according to the press release.
In January, Stewart also launched the New Britain Opioid Task Force to look at additional ways to prevent opioid related deaths. The goal of the Task Force is to reduce opioid and heroin related deaths in New Britain by 50 percent within three years or by 2020.