POTTSVILLE – To better help people get treatment who are suffering from substance abuse disorders, Attorney General Josh Shapiro today expanded his collaborative law enforcement program in Schuylkill County with local officials, including District Attorney Michael O’Pake and Judge James Goodman.
PA LEAD, or Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, allows someone seeking treatment for addiction to visit their local police department and be connected with a participating local treatment partner without threat of arrest. PA LEAD kicked off in 2018 in Somerset County and expanded this past March in Carbon County.
“For too long we have been doing a disservice to people suffering with substance abuse by not treating their addiction,” Attorney General Shapiro said during a press conference today inside the Schuylkill County Courthouse. “As I’ve said over and over again, addiction is a disease, not a crime. We must do more to help people who need – and want – serious treatment, and we must do more to reduce the financial burden of incarceration for taxpayers.
“District Attorney O’Pake created this important county-wide policy working with my office. It is important and notable that the launch of this program has the support of Judge Goodman, police chiefs, law enforcement, and drug and alcohol officials in Schuylkill County. By connecting Schuylkill Countians to treatment, we will save lives, reduce the demand for illegal drugs, and make our communities safer.”
Shapiro said partnering Schuylkill County law enforcement agencies under PA LEAD will:
- Open their station doors to those suffering from addiction.
- Help identify treatment for those who seek it.
- Assist with ensuring that people have transportation to the facilities.
- Maintain relationships with local treatment providers to understand availability, and
- Collect data to study outcomes.
DA O’Pake said he recognizes the rampant and overwhelming drug problem in Schuylkill County and throughout Pennsylvania, including the opioid crisis. In response to the epidemic, O’Pake helped form Schuylkill County REACH (Recovery Education Advocacy Community Health), which is an organization that works collaboratively across all agencies to reduce overdoses and overdose deaths in Schuylkill County to zero. Schuylkill County REACH will save lives and combat the Opioid Crisis in Schuylkill County, he said.
“No single agency, group or individual is able to lessen the impact of drugs in Schuylkill County,” but collaboratively, Schuylkill County REACH can make the lives of those suffering from substance abuse disorders and the lives of all Schuylkill County residents better. Pennsylvania LEAD is just one more tool to use to accomplish this goal.”
Janene Holter, PhD, is the Office of Attorney General’s dedicated full-time agent who coordinates PA LEAD, including training, providing sample policies and documents, and convening key community stakeholders.
Any district attorney in Pennsylvania interested in starting a PA LEAD program should contact the Office of Attorney General at PALEAD@attorneygeneral.gov.
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