Woonsocket Police Department Receives $819k Grant for New Program to Curb Opioid Crisis and Save Lives

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline today announced that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded the Woonsocket Police Department a three-year $819,109 grant to create a new diversion program aimed at connecting people who are struggling with opioid addiction to treatment rather than sending them to jail.  Woonsocket’s Law Enforcement Assisted Deflection, Engagement, and Retention (LEADER) in Treatment program will be a partnership between the Woonsocket Police Department and the Community Care Alliance.

The federal funding was awarded from a program created by the landmark Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which Senator Whitehouse co-authored and passed into law with bipartisan support in 2016. 

“I commend Senator Whitehouse for his leadership on this issue and applaud the Woonsocket Police Department for winning this grant and working to put more Rhode Islanders on the path to recovery,” said Senator Reed.  “This federal funding will help save lives and change lives for the better.  It gives people a chance to get treatment and the level of care they need.  It will also help save taxpayers by reducing avoidable health and social service expenditures related to the costs of untreated addiction.”

“For the many families touched by addiction, the opioid epidemic is yet another worry layered on top of the stress of the pandemic,” said Senator Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “My bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act is working as intended in providing this grant funding to Rhode Island.  I’m hopeful Woonsocket’s program will help divert people from jail into treatment and get more Rhode Islanders on the long, noble road to recovery.  Judge Rodgers, Chief Oates, and their partners are helping lead the way.”

“Rhode Islanders are, sadly, all too familiar with the deep consequences of substance use disorders and addiction,” said Congressman Cicilline.  “This federal funding will enable the Woonsocket Police Department to develop a program to divert individuals at high risk for overdose from the criminal justice system, putting Rhode Islanders on a path to recovery instead of incarceration, and saving lives and saving families.”

The LEADER in Treatment program will divert individuals with a substance use disorder who are at high risk for overdose at the post-arrest pre-prosecution stage, before they formally enter the criminal justice system.  The Woonsocket Police Department and the Community Care Alliance will work together to connect program participants with counseling and recovery support, as well as a wide range of social services. 

“On behalf of the various partners who have developed LEADER in Treatment, we are excited to implement this unique program that places individuals who are accused of certain non-violent offenses and who may be struggling with a substance use disorder and/or co-occurring disorder in a health-centered setting rather than the criminal justice setting,” said Kristin E. Rodgers, Associate Justice of Providence County Superior Court.  “This is not just an alternative-to-incarceration program but an alternative to the criminal justice system altogether, and we hope it will pave the way for healthy, productive living for each participant.”

“The Woonsocket Police Department is looking forward to working with all the partners, led by Superior Court Judge Kristin Rodgers, who came together to create this new approach in trying to help those touched by the misuse of and addiction to opioids,” said Chief Thomas F. Oates III of the Woonsocket Police Department.  “Giving law enforcement the ability to offer a person the chance to get into a treatment program instead of getting a criminal arrest record will hopefully be the first step in a new approach in dealing with this public health crisis.”

Technical assistance for the program has been provided by the New England Opioid Response Network and Brown University, along with subject matter experts at Rulo Strategies and Columbia University. 

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