Nearly a year after it was announced, Woodstock’s program to help people overcome substance abuse has helped pave the road to recovery in place of a life of arrests and incarceration. The Woodstock Outreach Initiative Program was announced last April in response to the heroin and opioid epidemic that has claimed many area youths.
Anyone struggling with addiction, whether it be heroin or any other substance, can come to the Woodstock Police Department and seek treatment without fear of arrest. There are some caveats. All participants will be checked for warrants and drug dealers will be prosecuted. But the vast majority will not face an arrest for drug possession if they are seeking treatment.
Since last year’s announcement, the Woodstock Outreach Initiative Program has placed four people in treatment, according to co-founder Kassandra Quednau. There are three more people potentially in the works to receive treatment.
Quednau and co-founder Shayna Micucci worked with Police Chief Clayton Keefe to develop a program which uses volunteers, called angels, who come and sit with the person seeking treatment while police personnel and other volunteers gather information and find a treatment facility.
Finding treatment can be as quick as 10 minutes or, in the case of one individual, can take as much as two weeks if other hurdles such as probation are involved. Some also may need to tie up loose ends with jobs or family before leaving.
It’s taking away that stigma of ‘police just want to arrest people and put them in jail’ and kind of moving more towards a model of helping them and not having to keep arresting them,” said Quednau.
The Outreach Initiative Program is based on the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative, or PAARI, founded by Gloucester, Mass., Police Chief Leonard Campanello in 2015, as a way to stop the revolving door of addicts coming in and out of the criminal justice system and also as a way to fight the war on drugs by curbing the demand instead of just focusing on supply.
Last August, the Woodstock program held Lights of Hope, an event on the Village Green to raise awareness of the program and bring in money for the scholarship fund to help those without insurance get treatment. More recently, the program spread the word through a public service announcement airing on Radio Woodstock 100.1 FM.
About $3500 was raised from Lights of Hope, with the bulk of funds going to transportation, since nearly all the treatment centers are out-of-state.
Woodstock’s first participant came in October and volunteers, working with the Police Department, were able to place him into treatment in Florida within two days, Quednau said. “And he’s doing really, really well. He likes it down there. He’s still clean, still sober,” she said. “He’s going to be staying down there. He’s working a really good program of recovery and he’s really grateful for the program.”
The next person came in February and he was able to get treatment in Colorado Springs, though there were some barriers to overcome. He was on probation, so he had to be cleared to leave the state. “So we worked through that with the different jurisdictions. Chief Keefe was really helpful in that process,” Quednau said. “He’s also doing really well. He’s currently working as a house manager in one of the transitional housing programs out there.”
Within the last month and a half, the program has placed two more people in treatment in Colorado Springs. Both are doing well, she said.
The majority of the cost involved is not for the recovery itself. It’s getting there that is the most expensive, Quednau explained. Treatment facilities that participate in PAARI-related programs have pledged to take two uninsured people for every two who have insurance. Since most facilities are far from New York, transportation is a big factor.
Airfare can be quite expensive at the last minute as opposed to booking for a planned trip, which can be done months in advance. Quednau said she plans to explore options, such as reaching out to airlines for free or low-cost vouchers.
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The Woodstock Outreach Initiative Program also works with Family of Woodstock to provide support and education through programs, such as training in the use of Narcan, which quickly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Quednau said the Woodstock Outreach Initiative Program could not be possible without the outpouring of community support it has received. “People have really come together to support the cause,” she said.
Quednau said the program is not limited to Woodstock residents. “You can come from NYC, you can come from Buffalo, you can come from Pennsylvania,” she said.
Volunteers are on call from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. If someone needs help outside that time, they can still call the police department and speak with someone. All dispatchers have received training in the program, Quednau said.
The police department can be reached at (845) 679-2422.
For more information on the Woodstock Outreach Initiative Program, find them on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.