New Castle County and state officials on Friday unveiled “HERO HELP,” a new program that will provide assessment and treatment instead of arrest to eligible drug addicts who voluntarily seek help.
County Executive Thomas P. Gordon and New Castle County Police Chief E.M. Setting detailed the program in a news conference with State Prosecutor Kathleen M. Jennings, Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf and Michael Barbieri, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
“HERO HELP will be another tool to reduce overdose deaths, fight crime that addiction causes, rescue the addicted from hopelessness and spare families from more heartbreak,” Gordon said. With drug overdoses now the country’s No. 1 cause of accidental death, he said, “This is a revolutionary approach for law enforcement and we are confident this will save lives.”
HERO HELP is not open to violent criminals, gang members, drug dealers, weapon offenders or anyone with a long criminal record, current or pending domestic violence charges or violence against law enforcement officers, Gordon stressed.
Participants also must agree to intake with a substance abuse counselor, review of past and present criminal charges and admission to a rehabilitation facility.
Noting there were 228 overdose deaths in Delaware last year alone, Jennings praised all involved in developing HERO HELP. “This is a brave program and an expansion of the role of policing as well as prosecution,” she said. “We have great hopes for this program.”
Landgraf praised the program’s premise of recognizing addiction as a disease, noting talk about the diseases of Zika and Ebola, while addiction represents “the greatest epidemic that we have ever seen.”
Barbieri called HERO HELP “progressive,” attacking the demand for drugs while acknowledging that the supply “is always going to be there, as long as people want it.” As demand for help from HERO HELP grows, he said, “we will make sure that happens.”
HERO HELP broadens how county police approach that epidemic, Setting said. He noted that county police were the first major agency to carry the lifesaving drug that reverses opioid overdoses – with 25 saves in just over a year – and continues its ‘Heroin Alert Program” taking the message of prevention and treatment into the community.
He said HERO HELP represents “a very different approach to how we deal with people suffering from addiction,” adding appreciation for the inter-agency cooperation and support it has received. “In any other setting, this would have taken years to get this program going,” he said.
Officials at the news conference, held in the J. William Bell Fusion Center of the Cpl. Paul J. Sweeney Public Safety Building near New Castle, also detailed the scope of the heroin and opioid drug epidemic, as well as other efforts to combat the deadly problem that the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say kills more than 28,000 annually.
Attorney General Matt Denn said state justice officials “are encouraged to see this new program from the New Castle County Police and we look forward to helping make the program a success.”