MONTICELLO — According to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in 2020. That figure …
MONTICELLO — According to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in 2020. That figure represents an increase of more than 29 percent compared to 2019.
With opioid addiction continuing to plague our region, The Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office is partnering with the Sullivan County Drug Task Force to launch the Hope Not Handcuffs - Hudson Valley program.
Beginning this fall, the county hopes this pre-arrest diversion program will benefit those battling substance abuse disorders by offering them treatment before their addiction leads them into the criminal justice system.
Under the Hope Not Handcuffs - Hudson Valley, anyone suffering from a substance abuse disorder can walk into any police station in Sullivan County and say they need help.
“Everyone will be treated with compassion and respect, while a call will be made to an ‘angel’ volunteer from the Hope not Handcuffs - Hudson Valley team who will actively seek out a treatment plan,” says Wendy Brown, Deputy Commissioner of the Sullivan County Division of Health & Family Services and the co-chair of the Drug Task Force.
District Attorney Meagan Galligan said she is working with local police agencies to try and defer people to treatment when charged with most misdemeanor drug possession offences.
“This approach is part of our combined effort as Sullivan County’s law enforcement community to not only help those who are preyed upon by those who distribute toxic poison into our communities, but also to identify, investigate, apprehend and prosecute those who do that distribution,” Galligan said.
Hope Not Handcuffs - Hudson Valley Program Director Annette Kahrs thanked local law enforcement agencies for their role in addressing the public health crisis caused by opioid addiction and other forms of substance abuse. Kahrs said that the program in New York State includes six counties, 60 police departments and hundreds of ‘angels’ who volunteer to help connect people with inpatient treatment facilities.
Originally founded in Michigan, the parent program of Hope Not Handcuffs includes over 100 police departments in that state that have helped connect more than 4,800 participants with the resources and treatment they need.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther stated, “Admitting to a family member or to a friend that you have a problem with addiction is very difficult. I think today what we’re doing is allowing people to talk about their addiction and reach out for help.”
New York State Senator Mike Martucci said, “We need to be looking at new and innovative ways to solve a very complex problem that is only growing.”
Sullivan County Legislature Vice Chairman Michael Brooks delivered remarks from Chairman Rob Doherty, who could not be present on Friday.
“The current way we handle substance abuse disorders is not working,” Doherty wrote. “We want those who are suffering to trust the police and to see them as a path to recovery and success.”
Sheriff Michael Schiff spoke about how drug addiction has affected his family and said local government and law enforcement are ready to attack the issue from two levels.
“We’re going to make sure our children get the help they need, to the best of our ability, and we’re going to make sure that the criminals who are feeding them the poison and killing our children are locked up. So we see the difference and everybody onboard with this program is prepared to do both things,” Schiff said.