There’s a new type of program that coalescences efforts from both the criminal justice and social service agencies to address the increase in overdose deaths and injuries related to substance misuse in Delaware. The “War on Drugs” policing that primarily focused on drug raid and arrest was found to be inadequate to combat drug abuse, a multifaceted social issue. People struggling with addiction need the care and help from health agencies, but arrests and incarceration can hardly address their needs. The Hero Help program was launched in May 2016 in response to the increasing rate of heroin and opioid overdoses in Delaware. This program uses law enforcement to improve treatment initiation and recovery. Rather than only accepting those who self-present to police buildings for treatment, individuals can also be referred by treatment staff or police informally or in lieu of arrest into the program. Additionally, civilian staff and police officers assist participants, rather than relying on volunteers. To better reach to the people struggling with substance dependence, The New Castle County Police Department hired a civilian care coordinator to contact participants regarding treatment and the criminal justice system (direct needs), and other services such as housing, employment, mental health, and transportation (indirect needs). This person would also be responsible for conducting outreach and swiftly assisting non-fatal overdose victims, as well as training interested individuals in the safe use and storage of naloxone and providing a free kit. After hiring the coordinator, the police department initiated an extensive effort to advertise the Hero Help program to raise awareness in the community to potential clients, their families, and friends who might benefit from detox/treatment services.
The New Castle County Police Department contracted with the Center for Drug and Health Studies at the University of Delaware to conduct an evaluation of the impact of the Hero Help Coordinator. Researchers found that after the implementation of Hero Help, there has been an increase in walk-in participants in rehabilitation centers, which is thought to be the result of the growing awareness of the Hero Help program.