State

Treatment, not arrest. State police to take part in project to help drug abusers

Gov. Matt Bevin announced the drug-abuse help program on Thursday in Frankfort alongside Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders, left, and Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary John Tilley.
Gov. Matt Bevin announced the drug-abuse help program on Thursday in Frankfort alongside Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders, left, and Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary John Tilley.

People seeking substance-abuse treatment will be able to get help at any of Kentucky’s 16 state police posts under a program announced Thursday called the Angel Initiative.

Under the initiative, people who want to get into treatment can go to a state police post, where they will be paired with an officer who will help them find a program.

Drug abusers will not be arrested if they don’t have outstanding criminal charges or warrants, according to a news release from Kentucky State Police.

State police Commissioner Rick Sanders, Gov. Matt Bevin and Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley announced the initiative at a news conference.

“The Angel Initiative will connect those suffering from addiction with a safe place to come for assistance without fearing retribution,” Tilley said.

Sanders said a similar program in Gloucester, Mass., has helped get hundreds of people in substance-abuse treatment and reduced property crimes more than 30 percent the first year police started it.

Kentucky State Police started the initiative last year as a pilot program at the Pikeville and Richmond posts, and have facilitated getting 10 people into treatment, officials said.

The program was also introduced last September by the Georgetown Police Department.

Thursday’s event was to announce the program is available statewide.

Sanders stressed that the program should not be seen as police getting soft on crime. Officers will check to see if people who come to the posts have pending charges or warrants.

The program is a way to be smarter about dealing with the state’s epidemic of drug abuse, and it fits with the mission of state police, Sanders said.

“Our job is to save lives,” he said.

Sanders acknowledged there will be challenges.

“People have to learn to trust the program and understand that they are not under threat of arrest as long as they seek help by voluntarily turning themselves in at a KSP post,” he said.

Overdose deaths have spiraled up in Kentucky in recent years because of growing abuse of heroin and fentanyl and continued abuse of prescription pills.

There were 1,404 overdose deaths in Kentucky last year.

State police said the initiative will operate in conjunction with Bevin’s Don’t Let Them Die campaign, intended to raise awareness of Kentucky’s epidemic of abuse of painkillers called opioids.

People can also find information about drug treatment by calling 833-8KY-HELP (833-859-4357), or through Operation UNITE at 866-908-6483.

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