The Newark Addiction Recovery Initiative Guides Addicts To Treatment Instead of Jail

By Dorri Olds 06/17/16

Modeled after Gloucester PD's PAARI program, NARI encourages addicts to surrender unused drugs and paraphernalia in exchange for drug treatment. 

The Newark Addiction Recovery Initiative Guides Addicts To Treatment Instead of Jail

“Nobody wakes up one day and decides that today is the day I become an addict,” said Sgt. Brian Webster of the Newark, Ohio Police Department.

The local police department is averaging close to one overdose call per day. Obviously, previous attempts at curbing the drug problem haven't been working, so Newark’s police chief, Barry Connell, wanted to try something new. 

The Newark Addiction Recovery Initiative (NARI) is a new program that encourages drug addicts to surrender their unused substances and drug paraphernalia, free from legal repercussions and in exchange for drug treatment. The NARI program was just announced on Tuesday, June 14, and goes into effect on Friday, June 17, according to the Newark Advocate.

For Connell, NARI is personal. The police chief told the Newark Advocate that "years ago, he and his wife had co-signed a loan for his brother-in-law, a teenager who was living in Maryland and wanted to try his hand at crab fishing. Little did Connell know he was helping to finance his brother-in-law's drug addiction."

The hope is that NARI will guide addicts to treatment instead of sending them to jail. The program isn’t carte blanche for every druggie, though. There are some conditions in place. According to the Columbus Dispatch, “The program is not available to registered sex offenders, those previously convicted of a felony sexual offense or those with outstanding arrest warrants. Addicts under the age of 18 who do not have parental consent also are prohibited from the program, as well as those in medical distress that is not addiction-related and those whom police believe could harm the volunteer advocates working with them.”

Another stipulation is that an addict must come on willingly. Recovery help is only for those that want it. And, if any citizen is caught in possession of drugs out in public and stopped by police outside of the station, they will be arrested as per typical law enforcement protocol.

For eligible addicts, NARI—which is modeled after the Gloucester police department's Angel Program in Massachusetts—will designate an officer, sergeant, and volunteers to assist those seeking treatment. They will connect users to local rehab programs available through hospitals or other facilities. 

NARI is associated with the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI)—the program which PAARI founder and police chief Leonard Campanello pioneered in Gloucester. PAARI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping other police departments implement similar programs. As of this month, over 100 other law enforcement agencies in 28 states have adopted a PAARI program. And that number is expected to grow.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.