North Carolina Police Department Offers 'Hope Initiative' To Opioid Addicts

By Paul Gaita 05/17/16

The HOPE Initiative is the first program in the state to provide drug addicts with immediate assistance through the police.


Individuals in the town of Nashville in Nash County, North Carolina who are struggling with addiction to heroin or opioid painkillers can turn directly to the town's police department for help, as part of a program aimed at stemming the tide of overdose deaths that have plagued the state for the better part of the last half-decade.

Speaking at the Law Enforcement and Community Summit on Heroin in North Carolina—a daylong meeting of law enforcement officials, lawmakers, medical providers and community activists—on May 12, Nashville Police Chief Tom Bashore outlined the HOPE Initiative, the first program in the state of North Carolina to provide opioid addicts with immediate assistance through a police department.

Modeled after the Angel Program created by the Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Department, the HOPE Initiative connects addicts with a community volunteer, who then brings the individual to a medical facility for treatment and recovery. Any drugs or paraphernalia can also be turned in and disposed of without fear of arrest or prosecution.

“We have to eliminate the stigma,” Bashore said, “and look at it the same way we view diabetes or cancer, and the need for treatment.” Opioid overdose cases have risen dramatically in North Carolina over the past six years. Deaths from heroin overdose increased 565% between 2010 and 2014, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition, which hosted the Summit, while cases of hepatitis C have tripled as a result of increased needle sharing.

The HOPE Initiative was established through joint consultation with a number of state officials and organizations, including the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), Nash County District Attorney Robert A. Evans and the Emergency Department at Nash UNC Healthcare. To date, 17 of Nashville’s 5,600 residents have taken advantage of the HOPE Initiative since its launch in February 2016.

Bashore noted that three of those individuals are currently in long-term treatment, while eight more are receiving outpatient care. He added that individuals do not have to live in Nashville or Nash County to take part in the program, and that anyone seeking help will not be turned away. “People are dying in every state from the same affliction, and we are in a position to take meaningful actions to help them,” said Bashore.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.