This One-Way Ticket to Prison Takes a Detour for Rehab

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

“We’re going to need to start doing things a little differently if we want to manage this problem.” These are the words of Nashville, NC Police Chief Tom Bashor, speaking about the frightening increase in heroin use and fatal overdose rates throughout his county.

Coincidentally, “doing things differently” has taken on a life of its own, growing into an innovative new program that provides help to the people struggling with addiction. It’s even spearheaded by Bashor himself.

Different Tactics in Action

The new strategy, appropriately deemed The Hope Initiative, is based on a similar program launched in Gloucester, MA.

The Gloucester police department decided to open its doors to anyone struggling with addiction, welcoming citizens with the mantra, “Come in. We won’t charge you. We’ll find you help.” By coming forward, Gloucester officers connect people to case managers, provide education about treatment options and even help them enroll in programs.

Inspired and desperate to save the lives of Nashville citizens, Bashor led the charge to establish a scaled-down version of the program for his community of 5500. The Hope Initiative launched in February 2016; they’ve already had 11 people come into the police department asking for help.

Launching the Hope Initiative

Programs like these don’t just pop up overnight; Bashor and his colleagues put in a lot of work to get the Hope Initiative up and running. Here’s a look at just a few of the hoops they had to jump through in order to make their dream a reality:

  • Convince the District Attorney to get on board: Since police would be “overlooking” crimes of possession, it was important to ensure the DA approved.
  • Brief the local hospital and detox facility: The people asking for help would need resources, so partnering with the right organizations would provide case management and detox options for the program.
  • Establish an open-door policy: When someone enters the police station asking for help, they aren’t charged for possession – even if they have drugs on them. Officers don’t grill anyone about where they’re buying drugs, they simply explain the program and offer to help them.
  • Start detox: Once the paperwork is complete, citizens move on to a short-term detox facility. Once there, each is assigned a social worker.
  • Find a treatment facility: While in detox, the social worker – along with some of the 30 community members who volunteer to help with the Hope Initiative – makes calls to short and long-term treatment facilities in order to find placement. Often, long-term facilities have extended waiting periods, so temporary short-term placement is the next best option.
  • Transport to a treatment facility: Once the person is on a waiting list for long-term rehab, they are taken to the short-term facility. The police department even picks up the tab for transportation.

Simple, Affordable and Proactive

The Hope Initiative is fairly inexpensive to run. Other than transportation to a facility, the police department experiences minimal costs. Volunteers cover the phone calls. The detox facility and social workers are paid for by the hospital. What’s more, the treatment facilities used generally offer scholarships or free care.

Though it took a lot of hard work, Bashor is excited about the potential of the Hope Initiative. “This program benefits police and the community because the more people we help, the fewer are committing petty crime. We are helping reduce the number of crime victims and helping people who struggle with addiction.”
Additional Reading:   Desperate Times: Heroin Addict Films Her Own Detox

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