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AG, Carbon launches program to help those with addictions

Published March 01. 2019 02:24PM

Partnering with local court officials including Carbon County President Judge Roger Nanovic, Judge Joe Matika and District Attorney Jean Engler, Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the expansion of a collaborative law enforcement initiative to connect individuals suffering from addiction with local treatment resources.

The initiative, known as PA LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), first launched in Somerset County last year, is now in Carbon County, and will expand to other counties across the Commonwealth. Its goal is to work with law enforcement to get more individuals struggling with addiction and seeking help into treatment, without the threat of arrest.

In Pennsylvania counties and municipalities adopting the program, anyone seeking treatment can go to their local police station, where officers will connect them with a local treatment partner to help them on the path to recovery. In Somerset County, where the initiative launched, authorities are seeing positive results: half of those referred have completed treatment and are in recovery, which is significant. In one instance, in the space of about an hour, a young woman approached the Somerset Police Department asking for help, and an officer connected her with a provider and she entered treatment.

“Law enforcement officers come into contact with people suffering from addiction every day — and our goal is to assist those who are seeking help get the treatment they need,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Addiction is a disease — not a crime. By connecting Pennsylvanians to treatment, we will save lives, reduce the demand for illegal drugs, and make our communities safer.”

On average, 15 Pennsylvanians die every day of an overdose. Attorney General Shapiro believes using treatment as a weapon to fight opioid addiction is vital. Part of that solution is increasing the availability of treatment.

Partnering law enforcement agencies will:

• Open their station doors to those suffering from addiction.

• Help identify treatment for those who seek it.

• Assist with ensuring that people have transportation to the facilities.

• Maintain relationships with local treatment providers to understand availability.

• Collect data to study outcomes.

The Office of Attorney General has dedicated a full-time agent to coordinate efforts across Pennsylvania, including training to law enforcement partners, providing sample policies and documents, promoting in the community during program rollout, and convening key community stakeholders.

Attorney General Shapiro thanked Carbon County President Judge Roger Nanovic and Judge Matika, Carbon County District Attorney Jean Engler, and Carbon Monroe Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission Executive Director Jamie Drake for stepping up to announce the arrival of the initiative in Northeast Pennsylvania.

He also thanked recovery specialist, Karalyn Williams, who spoke about the importance of access to treatment and her own path to wellness as a recovering addict.

“We’re excited to expand this program and bring much-needed help to the rest of Pennsylvania,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “It’s time to reduce the stigma of addiction and get people suffering from this disease the help they need.”

Local officials seeking more information or to bring PA LEAD to their jurisdiction can find a Statewide-by-County Drug & Alcohol Treatment Guide and more at the website: www.attorneygeneral.gov/PALEAD, or reach out by phone or email: (570)826-2483, PALEAD@attorneygeneral.gov.

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