Anne Arundel County takes a unique path to solve addiction problems

Safe Stations a safe haven for addicts
Posted at 6:28 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-22 18:28:19-04

The addiction of heroin has overwhelmed our state and more and more people are finding themselves in a jail cell because of that addiction. 

In the last 2.5 years more than 1,800 people have found themselves in the Anne Arundel County lock up because of heroin and opiate use.

It’s starting a vicious cycle leaving county Police Chief Tim Altomare with one haunting question, “How the hell am I going to stop this?”

A question many police chiefs are asking themselves across the state. In Anne Arundel County, Chief Alotmare and other county officials have come up with a unique answer: safe stations. 

Any county resident struggling with addiction can walk into a fire station in the county and ask for help. A team will do an evaluation and make the appropriate contacts and if you bring in paraphernalia and drugs they will get rid of them, no arrest will be made.

RELATED: Anne Arundel County program shows progress fighting opioid epidemic

"If you're at that  point where you honestly want the help, we're willing to give you that freebee moment to get the help," Alotmare said. 

That "freebie" moment is a reality Chief Altomare has found because many drug users are arrested multiple times.

“We can't arrest our way out of this problem," he said "We've got to get better at even getting in front of that.”

In 2015, 19 people in the county lost their lives to heroin. In 2016 that number rose to 68. Now, just a little more than halfway through this year, 62 people have died because of heroin and opiates.

Chief Altomare says once you're trapped, you're trapped.

“You can't get out of the cycle by yourself," he said. "So the magic is gonna be stopping people from interring the cycle in the first place." 

Jenna Keffer is part of that "magic".  She was the first to take advantage of this program.

"That program was my key out. It was the best thing that ever happened to me," Keffer said.

Chief Altomore has a simple message,

“Man, if you're serious about getting help, we're gonna help you, if you're not trying to be a problem, a part of our problem trying to move crime down, we'll move heaven and earth to get you the help you need."