Arizona Angel Initiative Lets Addicts Seek Help From Police

Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 4:55pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 5:09pm

(Photo by Matthew Casey - KJZZ)
Phoenix Police Cmdr. Ed DeCastro
(Photo by Matthew Casey - KJZZ)
Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

The acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy visited the Valley to talk prevention, treatment and recovery strategies with Arizona leaders.

Officials say prescription opioid drug overdoses kill at least one person every day in Arizona, and the Phoenix Police Department is slowly rolling out new program that focuses on treatment, instead of enforcement.

The Arizona Angel Initiative launched a few months ago in the Maryvale Estrella Mountain Precinct. The program encourages people struggling with addiction to go to the police for help.

Officers run a background check for warrants, previous drug convictions and a history of violent crime. If everything checks out, the police connect the addict with an Angel who steers them into treatment.

“We want to keep families together,” said Ed DeCastro, Phoenix police commander. “And one of the issues that Maryvale has faced is it has had one of the highest rates of child removal due to drug problems.”

About 10 people have sought help at the Maryvale Estrella Mountain Precinct, so far.

Officers are pounding the pavement to raise awareness and build trust, DeCastro said. The department’s goal is slowly expand the program citywide.

The Arizona Angel Initiative offers a simple, straightforward option for getting help, said Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“It can be hard for people to get into treatment,” Baum said. “To figure who to talk to, where to go, what to do, all the forms you have to fill out and all the health-insurance issues.”

The Angel Initiative was born in rural areas of the northeast, and Phoenix is the first major metropolitan city to try it, Baum said.

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