New Haven, CT – New Haven police will be distributing glass “crack” pipes and clean syringes to addicts in an attempt to lower users’ risk of overdosing or contracting HIV.
Officers often seize and discard such items when making arrests, leaving addicts desperate for a fix when they are released from jail, New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said during a press conference on Thursday, the New Haven Register reported.
That desperation can lead them to hastily make unsafe decisions like sharing needles or using equipment they are unfamiliar with, which increases their risk of overdosing or contracting HIV, the New Haven Register reported.
As a result, the New Haven Police Department (NHPD) will now be gifting clean syringes, condoms, tourniquets, Brillo pads to use as filters for smoking crack cocaine, glass pipes, fentanyl test strips, and other items as part of a “harm reduction kit,” Chief Reyes said.
“Clean needles, sterile water, there’s some burners, there’s cotton,” former New Haven Police Sergeant Robert Lawler told WVIT. “It’s a basic harm reduction kit.”
“We’re not promoting drug use, New Haven Police Lieutenant Nick Marcucio added. “We’re trying to help them until they’re ready…for treatment.”
The kits will also contain information about treatment options in the city, as well as a numbering system to help track how many users end up seeking help, the New Haven Register reported.
Signs with information about the kits will be posted in each jail cell so inmates can decide whether or not to ask for one when they’re booked out.
“While many think that the primary responsibility of police is to protect and enforce the laws, for us in New Haven, the primary responsibility is the protection and the preservation of life,” Chief Reyes told reporters. “Although there are many situations where we have to arrest, we want our people to know that want to we support every individual’s road to recovery.”
“This epidemic is complicated. This affects every facet of our community. And the New Haven Police Department cares deeply about every member of its community,” the chief added.
The NHPD will be the first department in Connecticut to dole out such kits, Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon told the New Haven Register.
Delphin-Rittmon praised the effort, and said it will take “all of us working together” to help addicts “move into long-term recovery.”
“Individuals released from incarceration, they’re vulnerable, and vulnerable to overdose,” she said. “Giving individuals harm reduction kits and tools to keep them safe will undoubtedly save lives.”
“New Haven has shown, as a city, that they’re committed to addressing this crisis collaboratively, with a number of other community partners,” Delphin-Rittmon added.
Licensed social worker and addiction counselor Joanne Montgomery said that she has been in recovery for the past 25 years, and that this program will help addicts without shaming them, WFSB reported.
“Harm reduction meets people where they’re at in a non-judgmental, compassionate way,” Montgomery said.
Chief Reyes said he is proud to be a part of the harm reduction kit program, the New Haven Register reported.
“When we talk about solving problems, at the very core, it’s really analyzing what’s at the root of the problem if we’re really looking to add sustainable solutions to the mix. And so that’s what we’re looking to do,” the chief said.
“I think our officers have been indoctrinated with that mindset. This is just one step further, where we’re adding to that philosophy for the New Haven Police Department. So, we’re proud to say that this is something that is seamless for us, and we welcome it,” he added.