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CCPD announces HELP, HOPE, for addiction

By Staff | Sep 26, 2019

The battle against opioids across the country is a serious one, and the Cape Coral Police Department is doing its part right here in our community.

CCPD announced two new initiatives aimed at getting those who battle addiction the help they need and providing education about opioid use — which has emerged has an epidemic across the globe.

CCPD Chief David Newlan introduced two new programs the department will be implementing: HOPE (Heroin-Opioid Prevention Education) and HELP (Help Educate Loving Parents).

“The Cape Coral Police Department (has) researched these programs for the last couple years, and as you know, the opioid addiction is a nationwide problem, but also hits home here in Cape Coral,” Newlan said. “As a police department, we enforce the law, but we’re also there to help the community and provide resources to those that need help.”

Newlan made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday that included speakers Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello, Deborah Comella from The Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free SWFL, Stacey Cook from SalusCare, Amy Kosinski from the State Attorney’s Office, CCPD Lt. Allan Kolak and City Manager John Szerlag.

“The mission of this program is to improve the efficiency of the policing efforts of the Cape Coral Police Department to help reduce the number of fatal and nonfatal overdoses due to opioids,” Newlan said. “This will be done by changing the way officers interact with people who are requesting help with their addiction to opioids. The Cape Coral Police Department hopes to improve the quality of life for those that are in need of treatment and support for their families. This will also help to reduce recidivism, decrease future crimes and overdose deaths associated with opioid addiction.”

Lt. Kolak touched upon the HELP program, and how educating parents who, in turn, educate their children, can be an important preventative measure for future use.

“The HELP program was developed by the Cape Coral Police Department to go out and actually host classes here triannually,” Kolak said. “So, three times a year we would be educating those that want to have more information about the impacts of drug use. The main course of this is to make sure we can reach out to the youth and to the parents, because that’s usually where the actual drug abuse and addiction can start. (The goal is) to make sure we educate them on the actual ramifications of drug use — the effects on the brain, the body, how it negatively affects not only the individual but the family and friends of the person who’s addicted to that drug or drugs.”

The HELP program will also help identify signs of a drug user, paraphernalia and how to get someone help.

Newlan said opioid overdoses — both fatal and nonfatal — have been on the rise in the Cape over the last three years.

Cape Coral saw 85 nonfatal and 41 fatal opioid overdoses in 2017, 159 nonfatal and 51 fatal in ’18 and the numbers are in the rise once again in ’19, said Newlan.

Year to date statistics in Cape Coral show 137 nonfatal overdoses and 29 fatal. According to CCPD, only two of the 29 fatal overdoses did not involve fentanyl. Of the 137 nonfatal, most all are suspected to be at least linked to opioids though many are “unknown” causes.

CCPD feels a big part of the issue with combatting opioids is that simply arresting users is not lowering statistics and not getting them the help they need.

“I know that arresting people is not solving the problem,” Newlan said. “It doesn’t reduce recidivism, it doesn’t get them the help they need, so we had to combine resources by reaching out to places like SalusCare, United Way, to get our resources together to initiate a program that if someone comes to an officer, or an officer encounters somebody, the officer knows what to do and what to offer them. Or, if somebody comes to the department, we can at least get them the help that they need.”

This program will not let those committing crimes off the hook, but will be an outlet for users not sure of how combat their addiction find help, and provide officers with the tools to point them in the right direction.

“If somebody comes to an officer that has an addiction or is an overdose situation and is looking for help, looking for assistance, but is not sure how to go about doing that — we know with our resources across the street at SalusCare and the United Way (can provide treatment),” said Newlan. “They can take it over from there to guide that person to maybe get them into a treatment program.”

Newlan said it’s all about establishing a trust with the community and that the police department is not a place to shy away from if you need help.

“If (an addict) comes to the front door of the police department, we want them to feel comfortable that we’re going to get you the help that you need,” Newlan said. “That’s the biggest thing, is to establish that trust. It doesn’t make sense to keep arresting somebody that has an addiction. If they want the help, we want to be able to provide the help with the resources we have available to us in the area.

“If an officer goes to a call at a residence and realizes that there’s a problem in the home because maybe one of the family members has an addiction, well maybe they could now provide resources to help that family out.”

Local organizations that are committed to combating the opioid issue in the community stood by this initiative from CCPD.

“Opioids are becoming a huge problem,” said Kosinski. “Substance abuse is at the heart of most of the cases I see. It’s something that we need to address and I look forward to collaborating with Chief Newlan and the other treatment providers in order to fight this epidemic and make the community safe.”

Cook said that SalusCare treats 16,000 people each year, and that 25% of those are Cape Coral residents.

“We know the statistics. The numbers are frightening,” Cook said. “The Chief and the PD have taken incredible action, and we’re happy to be a part of that partnership in the form of being able to offer detoxification services.”

Mayor Coviello applauded CCPD for their actions and said a reason why Cape Coral is one of the safest cities in the state is because of programs like this. He also hopes those who need help, seek help.

“We all know the opioid epidemic is real and it’s national and it’s really great to see that our local Cape Coral Police Department is creating an initiative, through both the HELP and the HOPE program, to offer more community policing and try to get the people that want the help into treatment areas and centers that can give them the help,” Coviello said. “I think this is a great initiative put forth by our department and I hope it’s followed by other departments in the area.”

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