While the opioid crisis appears to have a white-knuckle grip on the country, a police department and Lancaster-based recovery center are pressing on, taking a new approach to the crisis.
To their knowledge, they’re one of the first of their kind.
The program is called SecondChancePa. It’s a collaborative effort between the Elizabethtown Police Department and Blueprints for Addiction Recovery that’s set to roll out in the beginning of the new year.
One of the founders is a 26-year law enforcement veteran. Elizabethtown police Chief Edward Cunningham has known addiction most of his life, but he still wasn’t quite prepared for the devastation of the opioid epidemic.
“The harder we fought, it seemed like we were losing the battle,” he said.
They might have lost the battle, but the war is far from over. Cunningham quickly found an ally in Blueprints CEO Christopher Dreisbach, who has been sober for 12 years.
“We both believed that there had to be a better way to treat the opioid epidemic,” Cunningham said.
They created SecondChancePa, where Blueprints employees, most of whom are in recovery themselves, respond to calls with Elizabethtown police.
“We have certified recovery specialists that will be responding with the first responders to the scene of overdoses, to the scene of really anything, anywhere, anybody who needs help,” Dreisbach said.
The program also converts the Elizabethtown Police Department into a safe haven for addicts to get connected with treatment options, instead of the criminal court system.
Although, both men recognize that overcoming stigmas on both sides will be a challenge in the program.
“To trust the police to actually provide the help to them, and for law enforcement to trust that the people asking for help — trust that they’re actually going to follow through,” Cunningham said.
“The stigma was very real in my brain. When I started to get to know police officers for what they are — which is great people who are trying to help — it was very shocking to me,” Dreisbach said.
They know it won’t be easy — addiction is a fierce foe, but with the right people on the front lines, hope lives.
“When we all work together, we’ll definitely be able to find that way, and we’ll definitely be able to win this battle,” Cunningham said.
People seeking treatment don’t have to be Elizabethtown residents to use the police department as a safe haven — everyone who wants help is welcome.
The Northwest Regional Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office are also partners in the program. Dreisbach and Cunningham hope that more law enforcement agencies follow their lead and join the program.
For more information about SecondChancePa, click here or call 717-618-9628.