'Rapid evaluation, appropriate placement' is modeled after successful Massachusetts initiative
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined Monday by Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale R. Burstein, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Western New York William J. Hochul and police chiefs representing law enforcement agencies from across Western New York to unveil details of a new program designed to address the region's ongoing opioid abuse crisis.
"The REAP Program is something that has developed as a result of our creation of the Erie County opioid epidemic task force," Poloncarz said. "This initiative will be a revolutionary policing program that is focused on helping those who are addicted to opioids such as heroin get the help that they need. By working closely with our many community partners and the volunteers who serve on the county's opioid epidemic task force, we believe we will have a unified effort in place to help people be a part of the solution to this growing problem."
The REAP Program - which stands for rapid evaluation, appropriate placement - is modeled after a concept used in Gloucester, Massachusetts, that helped to see that community's property crime rate decrease 31 percent after it was implemented.
One of the unique aspects of the REAP initiative is the use of volunteer "angels" who will monitor and stay with addicts who are seeking treatment and want to enter into the rehabilitation process, following the philosophy of helping opioid abusers identify ways to seek treatment that doesn't necessarily involve them being placed under arrest.
"Addiction is a disease of the brain, and we typically don't incarcerate other individuals that have other diseases that require medication," Burstein said. "This approach using the REAP program will allow a user who may have drugs or drug paraphernalia in their possession to safely dispose of them without being arrested, charged with a crime or placed in jail."
With approximately 12 police agencies located in Erie and Niagara counties showing interest in participating in the program, the hope is to have the REAP program up and running within the next two months.
As county officials continue to work with the various law enforcement agencies in the strategic planning of how to implement the new initiative, the county's health department is currently recruiting potential angels to assist with the program on a volunteer basis.
To learn more about the REAP program, including how to apply to be an angel by completing a civil and criminal background check and signing a confidentiality pledge, click here: