SCHENECTADY — Addiction can feel hopeless.
But now there's one more option available for people grappling with substance abuse in Schenectady: Addicts can now walk into the city police station and be met with a path to recovery.
No judgment, just solutions.
The “Schenectady Cares” program is based on an initiative rolled out in the village of Chatham in Columbia County, an effort city police Sgt. Nick Mannix said has been “majorly influential” in offering a lifeline for people struggling with addiction.
People can walk into the police headquarters on Liberty Street and meet with trained staff who will help them with the initial recovery process, from navigating insurance complexities to placement at a hospital or detox center.
Schenectady-based treatment center New Choices will be on site between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Those arriving afterward will be aided by Catholic Charities.
Also, a group called Team Schenectady will deploy “angel” volunteers to sit with the individual at the department for support until the next step.
“Schenectady Cares” is not just for opioid addiction, but also alcohol and other controlled substances.
University at Albany’s School of Public Health will provide research assistance.
The program is known as a Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative model, which has roots in Gloucester, Mass.
City police will officially launch the program on Tuesday. Joining officials at the rollout will be Chatham Police Chief Peter Volkmann, architect of the “Chatham Cares 4 U” program that has helped hundreds of addicts since its 2016 rollout.
Volkmann has served as a guide and mentor throughout the process, city police said.
Mannix said the program in Schenectady has been two years in the making and constitutes a new approach beyond simply arresting a dealer, who will likely be immediately replaced on the streets with another.
“We’re trying to flip policing on its head,” Mannix said.
Prospective patients seeking help after-hours will present more of a challenge, Mannix said, but no one will be dismissed.
Those seeking help will not be charged for drug or paraphernalia possession, which will be entered into evidence and destroyed.
But any active warrants for earlier charges must be addressed before people can enter the program, Mannix said.
That may require an arraignment or appearance in front of a judge, where the desire to get clean may shape the proceedings.
“Once they clear their legal hurdles, we’ll be able to fully help them,” Mannix said.
But, he said, the bottom line is, “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible.”