On July 23, 2019, the Schenectady Police Department launched Schenectady Cares; an innovative program designed to help those living with a substance use disorder. Guided by the principles of PAARI (Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative), the program allows those in need of assistance to simply walk into the department and connect to services. Since that day, over 40 people have been linked to care with the help of our partners at New Choices Recovery Center, Catholic Charities, and the Schenectady County Office of Community Services.
We know this number represents only a small fraction of those who could use help, and we also know that going to a police officer for assistance with substance use may not be comfortable for everyone. That is why the program is evolving. In this second phase of Schenectady Cares, we will help our partners connect with an individual, post-overdose. That means quickly getting information on overdoses to the counselors and peers at New Choices Recovery Center and Catholic Charities, who will reach out to offer services that aim to mitigate the risk of subsequent overdoses and seek to engage individuals in an array of services. There is no obligation to participate, and no penalty for not accepting assistance, in fact, the only police involvement will be providing these professionals with the information they need to reach someone who may need help.
As always, we will continue to operate the original Schenectady Cares model, and our doors will be open to help anyone connect to services. But, this newest evolution of The Schenectady Cares Program represents our continued commitment to supporting harm reduction initiatives and treating substance use as the public health issue it is.