Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
The participation of public safety in collaboration with public health in a volunteer-led program called the Roswell Angels Program was brought before the Roswell City Council Thursday evening at the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
The motion was made by Councilor Art Sandoval and seconded by Councilor Barry Foster.
Deputy Chief Michael Stanton spearheaded the conversation about the amount of substance abuse in the community.
“The program is a proposed initiative design to address the epidemic of addiction within our community through partnerships between public safety and local care providers,” Stanton said. “This partnership would provide additional means for those who seek help in getting the services they need to battle their addictions. Through this program, the participants will have access to long-term counseling and support, not only for themselves but also for their families.”
Stanton said the programs originated on the east coast. Similar programs were adopted by over 200 communities and more than 28 states.
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A great number of the participating communities have reported a significant reduction in drug-related crime, which shows the effectiveness.
For substance users that voluntarily participate, the Angels Program would provide resources to create a better quality of life, long-term counseling and potentially reduce the level of harm and crime-related activity.
“The difference of this program versus mostly what we do in law enforcement is that it is actually preemptive,” Stanton said.
“The program isn’t intended to be an alternative to prosecution. It’s not for those who get arrested for drug crimes to get a way out of the system. It’s an alternative for those who get to a point with their addiction where they really want help, but they just don’t know where to turn to. The program is intended for those who seek help voluntarily. Since a majority of our violent and property crime is related — directly or indirectly related — to substance abuse, we believe this initiative has the potential to significantly reduce the overall crime level within our community.”
Over the last couple of years, Stanton recognized the intention of the RPD to build partnerships with community health centers to address drug-related crimes.
Stanton said creating these partnerships is something that the RPD has been working toward the last couple of years, but low staff numbers have hindered the ability to pursue those partnerships efficiently.
“We hope that its partnership serves as a cornerstone in which we can build off of to provide options other than prosecution for those battling with substance abuse,” Stanton said.
According to Stanton, the procedure of the Angels Program would entail individuals seeking help with addiction to come to the Roswell Police Department, The Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, or three of the local Roswell Fire Department stations. The individuals would receive transportation to the participating intake facility from those organizations.
“At this time, the Recovering Services of New Mexico is the only intake facility,” Stanton said.
“We hope to expand to other partnerships, not just for drug addiction, but for other services that those people may need in the future. But we’ve got to start somewhere, and I think this is an excellent place to start.”
Medicaid would be the primary source of funding for the program. Future services can be paid for with private insurance.
Stanton said an anonymous program to track the statistics will be initiated when the program starts to have data on individuals participating in the program and the correlation to the crime rates within the community.
“We are also open to additional partnerships in the future,” Stanton said.
“It’s our belief that by pooling our resources, not only through public safety but through other health agencies, we can more effectively address the root problems that reside in our community. This does not only have a better grip on preventing crime but providing a better quality of life for those people that are in need.”
Stanton said the request is to participate in the program, which was presented to the Public Safety Committee on Nov. 15 and it passed 4-0.
Representatives from the Roswell Fire Department, the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and the Recovery Center of New Mexico spoke before the council.
“We are happy to support this,” RFD Chief Devin Graham said.
“I think this could be a beneficial program to the community. When I started at the fire department over 18 years ago, immediately I realized the level of impact chemical dependency has, both on the community and on the call volume for the fire department. There has been somewhat of a paradigm shift, in my opinion, as to which drugs are in the community. Law enforcement can certainly speak to this better than I can. It has gone from opiate addiction to the methamphetamines addiction and through that, we’ve had to shift our treatment modalities within our emergency medical services program.
“If this program were successful, I could see it also impacting us positively in driving the number of our calls down potentially. The reaction of methamphetamines on patients versus opiates, such as heroin on patients, is much different, and so our treatments are different. Like Deputy Chief Stanton said, there is definitely a connection between chemical dependency, crime and our call volume at the fire department.”
“What is the best way to promote this in order to make this successful?” Sandoval asked. “There can be somebody with an addiction that won’t want to go over to the police department, the sheriff’s office or to the fire department. What is the best way we can promote this for the success of Roswell?”
To get the message out, Stanton said the participants of the program would start with a press conference, social media reach and perhaps some signs.
“I’ve been saying for years we’ve got to get people off drugs if we are going to have an impact on crime,” Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder said. “When the chief approached me with this, I told him absolutely that we would love to be involved in that in any way, shape or form. Hopefully, we can make an impact. We need every option available to us.”
Nancy Donahue, from the Recovery Services of New Mexico, said the clinic located on South Atkinson is open Monday through Saturday with intakes occurring Tuesday and Thursday, but these hours do not limit emergency intakes thanks to the dedicated doctors.
Donahue said the clinic doctors can intake anybody that is authorized to come. The clinic is a detoxification center, has an intensive outpatient program, and has resources to rehabilitation services that are currently unavailable in Roswell.
“You know every program obviously requires funding,” Councilor Juan Oropesa said. “Based on your presentation, there is funding through Medicaid and other insurances. My question is if anybody will be turned away if, for whatever reason, they are not able to pay?”
Oropesa said his concern stems from the current national changes in health insurance. Oropesa said he wanted to know what would happen to the funding of the program if Medicaid was cut and certain individuals could not qualify for private insurance.
Donahue and Stanton recognized that there are other options through the Recovery Services of New Mexico for financial aid.
“Most people in this population don’t have jobs,” Donahue said. “Most of them are homeless. I don’t see an issue with them not having some type of funding and to be able to get treatment because of the opiate epidemic in the United States right now. There is so much funding out there. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has so many different opportunities that go into the main office in Albuquerque.”
Donahue said most of the population qualify for Medicaid, but the difficulty is having the initiative or opportunity to go apply for it.
“We can work with them until they get Medicaid, and they will have the opportunity for medication prior,” Donahue said.
Mayor Dennis Kintigh called for voice vote from the City Council, which passed unanimously.
“This is a great program as far as I am concerned,” Oropesa said. “I am glad that we are looking at it because we do need the help with the epidemic that is here. Hopefully, we will be able to tackle it.”
City reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.