Pennsylvania law enforcement officers are helping people struggling with substance abuse disorders and addiction get clean in a recent initiative.
The Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative (LETI) was launched in the commonwealth in 2018 by the state’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro in an effort to offer alternative treatment options to those with substance abuse issues instead of sending them to jail.
The initiative not only aims to help drug users break the cycle of addiction but also break the criminal justice cycle that sends users to prison instead of getting them the treatment they need.
“The LETI program is something we needed for a long time because we need to break down the barriers between law enforcement, criminal justice and treatment,” Wyoming County District Attorney Joe Peters said.
According to Shapiro’s office, the primary goals of the program is to “save lives” and break the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction by connecting sufferers with treatment options.
“The goal of this initiative is to connect individuals suffering from substance use disorder with treatment options. Drug overdoses are now the number one accidental killer in the commonwealth. It is our greatest public health challenge and our greatest public safety challenge,” the DA’s website writes.
Under the initiative, law enforcement officers have the option to guide individuals suffering from addiction to treatment options instead of diverting them into the criminal system.
“They’ll have the opportunity to come forward without repercussions and get the help they need; you can’t arrest your way out of the situation,” Tunkhannock Police Department Chief Keith Carpenter explained.
Officials say that anyone struggling with substance abuse can go to their local police department for treatment options as long as their county participates in the program.
Chief Carpenter said the initiative gives officers the ability to make a difference in someone’s life instead of just arresting them.
“And what it does is that it gives the opportunity instead of making a forceful arrest and going through the harsh penalties behind it, you actually have the chance to assist someone who is looking for help and getting off of substance abuse,” he added.
Peters agreed, adding that the program gives drug users a second chance.
“It doesn’t condone bad decisions or drug use because drug use can kill you, but it is a way to give people a second chance so that they’re not labeled their whole life. There is no stigma, and they can go on and be a productive citizen,” Peters added.
Cameron County, Pennsylvania, is one of the most recent counties to join LETI. So far, 17 counties in the state have signed up for the initiative and are connected to various treatment services.
Shapiro said that participating law enforcement agencies will be able to identify individuals seeking treatment options and will ensure that individuals have transportation to treatment services.
Agencies will also maintain relationships with the drug and alcohol administration to provide data and understand availability within the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.
“We are pleased to be a partner in the LETI program with law enforcement and the District Attorney in Cameron County,” Angela Eckstrom, executive director of Cameron, Elk, McKean Counties Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services, told the Courier Express. “LETI gives individuals an opportunity to choose treatment over punishment to address their disease. This opportunity benefits the individual in need of treatment and the community as a whole. The LETI program is another step to help reduce the stigma of addiction and give individuals lifesaving treatment.”