Union City unites over new approach to heroin addiction

UNION CITY – As the heroin epidemic spreads across America, it is no longer a big city problem. Even the most conservative small town communities are dealing with the effects and consequences of the opiate narcotic. As the issue gets worse, local law enforcement are struggling to find ways to fight back.

Traditionally, anyone with a heroin or pain medication addiction has been on their own and only have a financial option of help once they have committed a crime and been convicted through a court of law. Statistics show that most heroin addicts will commit some type of crime and re-offend to support their ongoing habit and/or die from a fatal overdose. After watching the revolving door of many resident addicts, officers from the Union City Indiana (UCIPD) and Union City Ohio (UCOPD) police departments have come together for a different kind of approach in hopes to spearhead a solution to this problem in their community.

In conjunction with Monday’s kick-off of the Union City chapter of A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope… and the support of several community members and elected officials, both departments are launching their Police HOPE Initiative Program. According to UCIPD Assistant Chief Bill Bradbury, the program idea has been in the planning stages for well over a year.

“The goal is to offer help to those who are willing to do whatever it takes to get off of heroin,” Bradbury told The Early Bird. “Locking them up is just not working… As police officers, we have been looking at this all wrong. This is a disease that is tearing apart our community and definitely need to take action to make Union City great again.”

UCI Mayor Bryan Conklin and UCO Mayor Zac Pruitt

According to Bradbury, the program will focus on a three-pronged approach – Law Enforcement, Education and Treatment. With the rise of drug-related overdoses in Randolph County over the last three years, the county has stepped in to educate the public through their Reach All Randolph County campaign and Jr/Sr High School educational presentations. The Union City Jr/Sr High School recently held it’s first ever heroin convocation and is a strong supporter of the new Police HOPE Initiative Program, according to Principal Aaron Black. Union City mayors Bryan Conklin and Zac Pruitt both stated they are 100 percent behind the program and hope this will give local law enforcement a better way of fighting the heroin epidemic – that seems to worsen everyday.

“When we do a traffic stop or drug raids, we often run into an addict that asks us what can we do to help them get clean,” Bradbury explained. “This program will give Union City police officers a chance to offer something to help their addiction – rather than just throw them in jail.”

With the launch of the new Police HOPE Initiative Program, both departments will have information at their station and inside each cruiser they can hand out to addicts to give them a “way out”. In addition to the informational flyer, the officer(s) will obtain the addict’s contact information that will then be passed along to an “Angel” to make the phone call or house visit to learn more about their addiction. The “Angel” is a volunteer from the UC chapter of A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope that can work to get the individual into a designated treatment facility in which the organization absorbs the entire cost – the addict will only have to worry about getting clean.

“As part of the new Police HOPE Initiative Program, the Union City police departments from both sides of the state line are assuring anyone who walks into their office with drugs and/or paraphernalia on their person will not be looked at like a criminal and charged, but will be given mercy if they are serious about taking the treatment opportunity.

“We won’t charge them with possession or anything like that, but we will confiscate the illegal items and focus on helping that person instead,” said UCIPD Chief Cobie Wells. “The traditional way of handling someone with a heroin addiction is just not getting the results we want to see. After they go to jail, they are getting right back out and coming back to do the same thing.”

Both the UCIPD and UCOPD want to make one thing completely clear… This is NOT a ‘get out of jail free card’ and isn’t a way for someone to escape pending criminal charges. The offer of treatment is at the officer’s discretion and definitely will not apply to everyone… even if they claim to want help.

“We have the same policy as before on anyone that wants to deal drugs or bring them into Union City… We will find and arrest you,” Bradbury concluded.

The public is invited to attend Monday’s (April 4, 2016) Meet the Addict event for the kick-off of Union City’s chapter of A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope. The event will welcome testimony from former heroin addicts and what it took to overcome the disease. Volunteers from the newly formed chapter will discuss what the program will provide for the Union City community. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the UCHS cafetorium. The organization will work closely with the Wesley United Methodist Church, who is also a strong supporter of the campaign against heroin addition. To learn more about A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope, visit www.ablbh.org.

For addition information about the Police HOPE Initiative Program, contact the Union City Indiana Police Department at (765) 964-5968 or the Union City Ohio Police Department at (937) 968-7744.

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