Ashland Police to help people get into drug treatment instead of jail
ASHLAND - Ashland has become the fourth city in Kentucky to establish an “Angel Program” designed to help drug abusers get treatment instead of taking people to jail, according to Police Chief Todd Kelley.
“This program has one goal - saving lives,” Kelley said during a meeting at the Ashland Police Department community room Thursday. “The Angel Program is a proactive approach offering an alternative escape to those in crisis and battling addiction.”
The program allows those battling addiction and in crisis to come to the Ashland Police Department and get help finding a treatment center, counseling or both, Kelley said. “No questions asked.”
“It is not a drug treatment program, just an avenue to those who do not know where to go for help,” Kelley said. “We want those struggling to know that we can be a resource for them rather than adversary.
“We have to work together,” Kelley said. “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”
He added that the police department will continue to aggressively pursue drug traffickers.
“We do not feel this is getting soft on crime,” he said. “We know this works.”
While the department was setting up the program, a person with drug problems came to the police department and a police officer took him to get treatment and counseling, Kelley said. The person came back several weeks later, saying the officer saved his life, Kelley said.
Mayor Steve Gilmore said there are no easy answers to the drug problems facing Tri-State area residents.
“Drugs are a scourge on our community,” Gilmore said. “The safety of our people is our No. 1 charge. We have an epidemic of massive proportions.”
Gilmore, a former Ashland schools superintendent, said more grandparents than ever before are raising children. Drugs are everybody’s problem, he said.
“All of us need to band together. We have a police department ready to accept people willing to change,” he said.
Judy Fowler, addiction recovery program supervisor at Pathways, a 10-county mental health agency, said she’s seen the drug problem continue to grow in the past 20 years.
Pathways has a nine-bed, 10- to 14-day emergency drug program that stays full. The agency is trying to get additional beds. Currently, eight of the nine beds are occupied by individuals suffering with meth problems, Fowler said.
Synthetic meth is very, very dangerous, Fowler said.
“We have a major, major problem,” she said. “They’re coming in paranoid. They are sick. They are dying.”
The program is a way to funnel individuals into longer term treatment programs, she said.
Boyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rhonda Copley said the Angel Program is going to be a fabulous addition for the area.
“It will allow people to come in and seek help without being court ordered to do so,” Copley said.