Arizona U-MATTER Program Helping Opioid Population Avoid Jail
In little over one year, law enforcement in Pima County have managed to redirect more than 1,000 residents addicted to opioids.
The program called Unified Medication Assisted Treatment Targeted Engagement Response (U-MATTER) also helps keep the addicted out of jail.
The Pima County Criminal Justice Reform Unit launched U-MATTER back in November 2018, pairing medical and mental health counselors with trained first responders.
The teams approach opioid users with compassion and information rather than harassment or arrest.
U-MATTER's lead researcher Josephine Korchmaros with the University of Arizona directs the program and calls the encounters "deflections."
"It's not working to just arrest people," she said, "we want to try to get them connected to treatment without introducing additional challenges to them to be able to get into recovery and stay in recovery."
The program is approaching the halfway mark of its three year grant. In its first half year, Korchmaros reported 20% of the individuals contacted went on to receive full clinical intake assessments, which she considers the most important step toward long term treatment.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct which agency launched the program.