Program will identify addicts, get them help

Posted at 11:41 AM, May 02, 2016

On Monday the Opioid Epidemic Task Force met to discuss ways to address heroin use and other drug abuse in Erie County.

The REAP program is starting in two months according to the task force. REAP stands for Rapid Evaluation, Appropriate Placement.

It will allow people with addiction to get help at designated police stations. That person will walk into a police station undergo an assessment then get linked to the proper treatment.

REAP is modeled after one in Gloucester Massachusetts, where they've seen property crime decrease 31% since it started in May of 2015.

Daniel Rinaldo, who works for HIDTA, said the police chief in Gloucester placed more than 250 people in rehab within six months. The hope for success in western New York is the same.

"You can't arrest your way out of this there has to be other things that we can do to help ease this crisis, said Rinaldo. "Last year it claimed 262 lives in Erie County."

The program is reliant on a hotline service through Crisis Services. Police will call the hotline to get the person with addiction help, but it cost more than $300,000 to operate.

Right now funding for the hotline is being stalled according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Another component of the reprogram are "Angels". These are volunteers who will give moral support to the person going through the rehabilitation process.

"Addiction is not in undesirable behavior it is a disease of the brain and we typically don't incarcerate other individuals that have other diseases that require medication," said Gale Burstein the Erie County health commissioner. "We certainly don't want to incarcerate people who have addiction which is a disease in the brain."

Right now there's about 13 police agencies in Erie and Niagara County participating. The goal isn't to arrest people who go to the station but to connect them with the help they need.

If funding for the hotline isn't approved the program won't be created so Poloncarz said he's urging his constituents to approve the proposal.