Partnering for the Public Good

Partnering for the Public Good

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 13, 2019) – A School of Public Health professor is assisting a second local community with its police-led program to help those struggling with addiction receive treatment.

Tomoko Udo, associate professor of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, is working with the Schenectady Police Department on its “Schenectady Cares” program. Launched in July, the concept is straightforward but powerful: Anyone struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) can enter the police department and simply ask for help. An officer will then call a community partner who will respond to the police station and help the person find the resources they need to achieve recovery.

Udo has been tapped to assist with the research component of the program. She will analyze the program and outcomes over time in order to help the department measure its success and apply for future financial support.

The initiative is designed after the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, a national model that has seen success in using law enforcement as allies in helping those struggling with drug addiction. Locally, the Schenectady Police Department was mentored by Village of Chatham Police Chief Peter Volkmann. In 2016 Volkmann launched Chatham Cares 4 U – a similar program in the small upstate village where Udo also provides research support.

Udo notes that the data from her work in Chatham suggests that these police-led programs are successful in the goal of providing almost-immediate access to substance abuse treatment.

“There are a number of reasons why a person with SUD may not seek treatment, ranging from not knowing where to go, lack of resources, fear of legal troubles, to social stigma, and anything in between,” said Udo. “But police departments becoming a point of contact for treatment referral such as in Schenectady Cares and Chatham Cares 4 U remove some of the barriers and should encourage people to pursue the help they need when their motivation for change is high,” she continued.

Udo has found that so far in Chatham, 214 individuals completed the intake assessment, with 82.9 percent accepting the referral to treatment and 86 percent placed in treatment within 24 hours.

In an interview with UAlbany last year, Volkmann said “Sometimes all an addict needs is a person willing to lend a hand and say, ‘I’ll help you’ and that’s exactly what this program does.”

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford told the Times Union’s Paul Nelson that police cannot use only arrests to pull the city out of a drug problem. "I've come to the realization that we need to help people but at the same time I have to do my job as a police chief which is to stop the spread of drugs in our community,” he said in the Times Union.

Partners of the new program in Schenectady include New Choices Recovery Center and Catholic Charities, who will provide professional staff to help guide the individual through the initial stages. The department also is partnering with Team Schenectady (a community group of volunteers) who will provide “Angel” volunteers to sit with the individual at the department for support.