Drug abuse treatment in Easton, Pennsylvania is getting a boost from the local police department to assist people struggling with substance use disorders.
The Easton Police Department is now the fourth department in Northampton County to implement the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI). Its purpose is to help people who are struggling with substance use disorders.
PAARI, which was originally started by the Gloucester Police Department, has been adopted by over 400 departments across 32 states. It models itself on not arresting people who go into police stations for help with drug addiction.
When a person suffering from substance abuse who goes to the Easton Police Department, they will be given an assessment and be redirected to an addiction recovery center.
The drug abuse treatment referral program started helping people in August. The Lehigh Valley Drug and Alcohol Intake Unit is the provider that interacts with the police department. The intake process occurs when the Easton Police Department reaches out to the Lehigh Valley Drug and Alcohol Intake Unit. This provider offers multitudes of comprehensive services relating to addiction treatment and behavioral health.
Lieutenant Robert Weber of the Easton Police Department described the process of adopting the drug abuse treatment program in his station.
“We started a Narcan program through our [district attorney’s] office,” he said. “They’re issuing and they control all the Narcan that’s issued in our county. What was happening was they were getting kind of tied up in it, there was so much usage of it.”
According to a Northampton Coroner’s Report, Narcan has been used by police departments 219 times between 2014 and 2017.
“The Bethlehem Health Bureau took over the issuing of the Narcan to fire departments and local police departments in the area,” Weber said.
He stated that the Bethlehem Health Bureau and the Bethlehem Police Department joined forces and adopted the program.
“They were looking for other participants. I spoke with the director of the health bureau and said we would be more than happy to do that program within the city of Easton,” he added.
Weber’s department decided to alter the policy to allow anyone, regardless of residency, to seek assistance in their police station. He said that as long as someone who needs help shows up, the police department would offer assistance.
“It’s more important for us to get them before they overdose,” Weber highlighted. “Get them the assistance that they need, the treatment that they need and get them turned around so they become productive members of society. We can’t arrest our way out of this program, we have to save the people in the throes of addiction.”
There were 558 drug-related overdoses in Northampton County in 2017, with 109 of those resulting in death, according to a press release from the County of Northampton. There were 1,236 people who were arrested due to driving under the influence of a substance.
“If they have any drugs or paraphernalia on them, they surrender it without charge,” he said. “They’re not going to be arrested if they come into the police station and turn themselves over.”
Weber stated that the program has received a good reception since it began and people throughout the city are becoming aware of it.
“We’ve had about 11 people enter the program by having contact with the Easton Police Department,” Weber said. “If I did this for four years and only one person did it, it’s still worth it, if it works. If we can get one person turned around, it’s a success.”