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Police in Broome County, NY, Offer Hope and Help to Addicts

Every time I see Broome County police help addictsanother city or county police department offering help to addicts instead of wanting to lock them up, I get excited. Here’s the latest – the Broome County, New York, Police Department is following in the footsteps of police in Gloucester, Mass, by offering to get any drug user directly into a treatment program without being arrested or prosecuted.

The new program is called Operation SAFE – SAFE stands for Save Addicts From Epidemic.

Getting into the program is easy. Simply show up at any police station in the county and ask for help.They’ll connect you with about 50 treatment facilities in a variety of locations – including California, Florida, and Arizona. The addict may not have to pay for the treatment AT ALL, or they may get it at a very low cost.

“The addicts need to know they can reach out to law enforcement,” District Attorney Stephen Cornwell, in office less than four months, and who proposed the program said. “We’re not the enemy.”

The plan is to start the program in April.

Believe it or not, county executive’s office, has a little problem with that. The office sent an email saying that the SAFE program “could work against similar programs in the pipeline.”We are happy to see that the DA is concerned about drug addiction problems in our community,” said Deputy County Executive John Bernardo. “We would be even happier if we were aware of the DA’s plans with respect to this initiative. This action, although well-intentioned, may cause confusion in what is already a complicated treatment process. We invite the DA to come in for a meeting so we can sit down and work together on a solution with the best interest of the community in mind.”

Sounds to me like there’s a little sour grapes there. Cornwell ousted Gerald Mollen, who was DA for for 28 years.

During his campaign, Cornwell made it clear that he didn’t think Mollen was doing a very good job. “Broome County needs big changes in the district attorney’s office,” he said “I will be a DA who will be an advocate for our children and families, and who will fight to keep our community safe against dangerous criminals. Are you safer than you were four years ago? How about eight years ago? Or even 28 years ago, when Gerald Mollen first took office?” Cornwell continued. “You can’t solve 21st Century problems with a 20th Century politician and no plan.”

Perhaps the “similar programs in the pipeline” were taking a little long to get off the ground.

But Cornwell believes something needs to be done now.”We are not going to wait for more addicts to die from overdose before implementing this life-saving treatment model,” he said. “As the chief law enforcement officer in the county, it is my duty to dictate the policies and procedures to keep Broome County safe.”

The first such police department program, the Angel Program in Gloucester, Massachusetts – who’s population is only about 15 percent that of Broome County – has gotten more than 350 addicts into treatment so far.

Come April, they’ll be lining up for help in a county that takes “To Protect and Serve” seriously.

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