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Hero Help program's goals: help police officers get those addicted to drugs help

Megan Pauly
Delaware Public Media

The New Castle County Police Department is launching a new program called Hero Help: a hybrid program designed to help get drug abusers help instead of cycling them through the criminal justice system.

Around six months ago, New Castle County Police chief Colonel Elmer Setting started searching for options to better help people with drug addictions that officers encounter on the street.  The goal - discourage arrests and encourage treatment.


He found the Angel Program: run by the Gloucester, Massachusetts police department. It  invites addicts to surrender their drugs to the police in exchange for getting help.


“I was looking around the country," Setting I know we’ve made a mistake with our drug laws. I’m a big believer in studying your history," When you go backwards with the drug laws: we’re still married to the drug laws that were written in 1914 and I think we’ve made some mistakes here and incarcerated a lot of people here to include more people in the world to include China and India.”


But New Castle County’s Hero Help program differs from the Angel program in that individuals will be engaged by officers on the street: instead of waiting for them to come to the police station.


If an officer encounters a non-violent adult with drug addiction problems involved in a victimless crime on the street, the officer can make a refer to the voluntary Hero Help treatment program.


New Castle County police has partnered with Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services to help get the person from police officer to treatment.

DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf hopes capacity won’t be an issue. She says right now they have the capacity to conduct 23-hour assessments.


“If we can keep those beds moving forward the capacity issue should not impact us. If we become over capacity in a given time we will notify New Castle County," Landgraf said. "I kind of call it the red light, green light. So if we say it’s a red light, all of our treatment programs are at full capacity then we aren’t able to bring in any new people.”


She says the “red light, green light” model is based in part on a program out of Seattle called LEAD, a pre-booking diversion program: which certain elements of the Hero Help program draw upon.

Delaware’s Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf says there will be a 23-hour assessment period before an individualized treatment plan will be established. She says they’d like to see someone stay with the program at least six months.

"If they have a relapse – and we know that goes with the disease – that won’t be counted against them," Landgraf said. "But then we might extend the six months a little bit longer to keep the individual in treatment."


If someone exits the program prematurely, New Castle County will be notified and a warrant could be issued for their arrest.


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