Rochester police partnering with nonprofits to provide pathway to recovery
The Rochester Police Department has launched a collaborative initiative aimed at getting people out of a cycle of drug use and crime, and into long-term recovery plans.
On Wednesday, the department joined its nonprofit partners in announcing the Police Assisted Recovery program. The initiative, which began in early July, gives local law enforcement the capacity to provide temporary housing for individuals who want to pursue recovery, but lack the support system.
“This is a multi-faceted effort in our attempt to provide non-arrest pathways to individuals in our community who are suffering from substance abuse problems,” Captain John Sherwin said during a news conference.
At least a quarter of Rochester officers now have additional training when it comes to working with individuals with chemical abuse issues.
So far, proponents say the program is working. In just the last month, two individuals have been placed in temporary housing.
Both had been frequent contacts of law enforcement. Today, though, the individuals are moving through the treatment process.
“Their time at Doc’s Recovery House allowed them to evaluate their options, which for somebody who doesn’t have the support of housing or even just recovery support on a day-to-day basis … they don’t really have the luxury for even thinking through their goals,” said Tori Utley, executive director for Doc’s House, a short-term addiction recovery center.
Sherwin, the Rochester police captain, admitted that law enforcement has not given enough attention to addressing the user side of the drug issue. While officers will continue to aggressively pursue those engaging in the trafficking of drugs, the users, he said, require a different approach.
“Quite often the people we encounter, the crimes they committed and the situations that they are involved in … the overwhelming driver is substance abuse,” said Sherwin.
With the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, the department says it will also begin allowing individuals to surrender drugs and related paraphernalia to police without being charged. Individuals seeking sobriety can arrange through dispatch to either drop the drugs off with police or have an officer come to their home.
Sherwin said there have been 137 overdose deaths reported in Rochester and Olmsted County in the past five years.
Sean Baker is a Rochester journalist and the founder of Med City Beat.