“Drug addiction plays far too large a role in criminal activity, and we must collectively do everything that we can to reduce the number of people in our families, neighborhoods and community suffering from this physical and emotional dependency”
~Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada
At the beginning of the year, in an effort to connect suffering substance abusers with local Orange County drug treatment programs, the Anaheim Police Department announced a new civic aid program.
Anyone with a substance abuse disorder can go to the police station or contact an officer for help. From there, they will be put in touch with treatment services appropriate for their individual needs. Corollary goals of the program, part of are to cut down on crime and reduce homelessness.
Emulating a Successful Drug Treatment Program in Massachusetts
This first-in-California initiative, which is part of “Drug-Free Anaheim”, is modeled after Gloucester, Massachusetts’ Angel Program. In Massachusetts, opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death. The Angel Program has helped more than 500 people since it received its first walk-in in mid-2015, and crime in the Gloucester area has decreased by 27 percent.
John Guilfoil, a spokesman for the Gloucester Police Department, says, “This focuses on turning a drug addiction into a health care issue. Police are not responding with handcuffs, but by getting people the help that they need.”
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, a strong supporter of the program, hopes to see similar results. As is the case elsewhere in Orange County, opioid abuse in Anaheim is a daily concern. Right now, 44 percent of young adults in substance abuse treatment in the OC are there because of prescription painkillers or heroin.
10 years ago, that number was only 12 percent.
“From now on, drug addicts will be encouraged to come in and ask for help. We will seek alternatives to prosecution and incarceration,” Mayor Tate said at his February, 2016, State of the City address.
How Does the Anaheim Drug Addiction Assistance Program Work?
To make the program as accessible to as many people as possible, the rules are very simple:
- Anyone with a drug problem can contact a police officer or just show up at the Anaheim police station and ask for help.
- From there, participants will be put in contact with a local nonprofit organization for screening/evaluation, and then referred to an appropriate treatment program.
- If the person is in possession of illicit substances, the police will dispose of them with no criminal charge or penalty.
There are a couple of unavoidable caveats, however – individuals who have outstanding warrants or show up intoxicated will be arrested.
Beyond that, Anaheim police officers are specially-trained to respond with empathy and assistance, rather than arrest. “It’s pretty huge for someone who uses narcotics to come into the Police Department’s doors and say that they want help. We want to help them,” Chief Quezada said.
Since 1978, Chapman House drug rehab in Orange County has been “raising the bar” for addiction recovery. By using established treatment protocols based on empirical evidence, Chapman House has proven to be an invaluable resource for struggling addicts and their families.