Gaudenzia is partnering with the Montgomery County Office of Drug and Alcohol, the District Attorney’s office and local law enforcement in a groundbreaking program aimed at providing more immediate help to those suffering from substance use disorder.
Under the Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative (LETI), those seeking treatment can get help by asking police directly or through a police referral as a diversion from prosecution.
The announcement was made at a news conference on June 3, at the Montgomery County Courthouse attended by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Montgomery District Attorney Kevin Steele and police chiefs from around the county. Shapiro’s office created the LETI program, which is now in 10 counties.
The effort comes amid a surge in overdose deaths that sees an average of 12 people die each day in the Commonwealth from an overdose.
Gaudenzia’s 24-7 Treatment and Recovery Hotline (1-833-976-4357) will serve as a resource clearinghouse, providing information to police officers about a wide range of social services. In addition, anybody who presents themselves to police for help with SUD issues – or eligible people facing arrest – will receive an intake interview by Gaudenzia and then, if eligible, transportation to the appropriate facility for treatment.
Gaudenzia is the largest non-profit provider of drug and alcohol treatment services in Pennsylvania. Gaudenzia provides a wide range of services, including residential care and medication-assisted treatment. The agency utilizes innovative, person-centered and strengths-focused care that is informed by culture, gender and trauma.
“Gaudenzia is proud to lead this program, which recognizes the vital role we play in the fight to save those suffering from substance use disorder,” said Dale Klatzker, chief executive of Gaudenzia. “We salute both Attorney General Shapiro and District Attorney Steele for launching the LETI program in Montgomery County and will work diligently with their offices to save the lives of those in need.”
Funding for the program came through a $50,000 grant to Gaudenzia by Vital Strategies, a non-profit organization that helps governments strengthen public health systems.
Shapiro said cooperation among various agencies is critical to combatting addiction.
“We cannot make strides toward addressing the opioid epidemic without a coalition of partners dedicated and working together to address this crisis,” Shapiro said. “Sometimes people who are suffering don’t know where to turn or they don’t know who they can trust for help.”
The LETI program sends a simple message, he said. “Turn to us to help.”
Steele said the program is a “seminal moment” in getting people the treatment they need.
“In Montgomery County in this last year alone, 257 people lost their lives to overdoses,” he said. “Too many people are dying. This is another avenue to help those suffering from substance use disorder – and to help their families – by working to get them the treatment they need. Immediate referrals to treatment will save lives and, in some cases, save the addicted individual from a criminal record.”
Besides those who approach police on their own for help, eligible participants include people facing arrest for simple possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor theft, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, fake ID and other misdemeanor charges.
Pat McKernan, chief of staff of Gaudenzia, said the agency looks forward to working even more closely with law enforcement.
“We are on the front lines together and see every day the impact that addiction is having on individuals and their families in Montgomery County and across Pennsylvania,” she said. “We will be a true partner with police and in doing so, we will save lives together.”
To receive help with your substance use or to help someone else, call Gaudenzia’s Treatment and Recovery Hotline at 1-833-976-HELP (4357).