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What Does It Take for Addicts to Take Advantage of an Angel Program Being Offered by Police

Have you heard of the Drug Free Anaheim program in Anaheim, California? It’s modeled after the Angel Program in Gloucester, Massachusetts and allows addicts to come into the police station to get help with drug addiction without prosecution. But it’s not getting anywhere near the Angel Program’s participation or success. Why is that? What does it take to make a program like this successful? How can it work for you?

In Gloucester, nearly 400 addicts were helped with their drug addiction through the Angel program in the first year. About 100 of those in the first month. Drug Free Anaheim has been open now for close to five months and only 11 people have participated in the program. And the Anaheim police sometimes even go out on the street and offer it to people they see in alcohol or drug trouble. Still, not much in the way of takers.

What makes Gloucester successful?

A recent study identified several factors that contribute to Gloucester’s success:

  • The addicts seeking help are motivated enough to go into the police station and ask for it.
  • There are TONS of volunteers who take care of the addicts to make sure they get into treatment and so on.
  • 24-hour access.
  • Relationships with several treatment centers. Some have donated at least one treatment program per month.
  • They provide transportation, they don’t just give an addict an address – they take them there.
  • State-mandated insurance for drug detox. However, there is a lot of other financial support. The State also offers money for residential treatment. The money seized in drug busts is used for this program. Treatment centers sometimes volunteer help. And I’m sure there’s more. As of October 2015, 260 addicts had been gotten into treatment at a cost of $55 per person. So Gloucester has the finances set up very well. One way or another, people get the help they need.

I also know that addicts who come into the Gloucester police station are treated well. As reported by patch.com “The astounding fact is that people came to the police station for help, and they got it,” said David Rosenbloom, professor at Boston University School of Public Health and co-author of the recent study on Gloucester’s Angel program. “In our follow-up calls, participants told us that the police station was the first place they had ever sought help without being judged and stigmatized.”

Gloucester’s Angel program has not only gotten more than 400 people into treatment, the drug-related crime rate in the community has also dropped by 27 percent. And the number of deaths suspected to be related to heroin have dropped by 80 percent.

Anaheim’s Drug Free Program

There isn’t a lot of info about Anaheim’s program readily available, but I do know that they don’t have the finances set up as well as in Gloucester. In a recent article in the Orange County Register, one spokesperson associated with the program talked about how expensive treatment could be – saying it could cost $160 to $275 a day.  And that most people need at least 30 days of treatment. “That’s the sad thing about our world,” he said. “With all the health care reform news, we don’t know where people are going to get help.”

Obviously, they’re not following Gloucester’s lead on the financing.

With the addicts needing to be able to afford a program, the Anaheim program isn’t going to do very well.

Also, Anaheim seems to have teamed up primarily with one treatment referral-type source. But if the drug-free program is having trouble with money, I would say they need to hook up with more centers and others who can help.

“Gloucester developed a model to meet people where they are and to provide treatment on demand, 24 hours a day, when individuals present motivated to seek care,” said co-author of the study Dr. Davida Schiff, MD, of Boston Medical Center. “Gloucester created a successful entry point to help access to our complicated, hard-to-navigate treatment system. Our hospital systems can and must do more to provide non-stigmatizing screening and referral services for individuals with opioid use disorder.”

A lot of people don’t understand that when you have a successful model, you have to follow it exactly. You can’t leave things out and ‘sort-of’ do what the model is doing, but not quite. It’s hard to know which things are pivotal and which are not. Who knows, all of the volunteers wearing green – or some such seemingly insignificant thing – could be making a difference. That sort of thing is certainly true in other fields.

When I first read the information about Anaheim and compared it to Gloucester, it occurred to me that the problem Anaheim is having is that they’re not even getting people coming there for help. So how could someone know that they’re going to need more money than they have, or they’re not going to have anyone take care of them, or they’re going to be given ‘attitude’ that somehow degrades them?

But if you have, for example, a very salty receptionist or clerk at a retail shop or doctor’s office, or a place that’s disorganized and can’t really help you with whatever service they offer, you’re going to find that that business doesn’t attract the clientele they would if they were friendly and really set up to service people. People just don’t show up. It’s a funny thing, but I’ve seen it time and time again. You replace the salty receptionist with someone friendly and welcoming and business picks up as if by magic.

I suggest that Anaheim and any other location that wants to help addicts do everything they can to follow Gloucester’s program exactly.

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