'Hope Not Handcuffs' offers help to those struggling with drug addiction
Some Westchester police departments are banding together to offer hope instead of criminal charges to New Yorkers who are struggling with substance abuse.
Alcoholism and drug addiction caused many problems for Palmina Sandoval, of Mount Kisco.
"I had various arrests in Bedford, Mount Kisco, Ossining and you know it's kind of embarrassing for the family," Sandoval said.
She is now three years sober and is hoping to help others avoid criminal records by volunteering with Hope Not Handcuffs.
"The concept is simple: People helping people," said Annette Kahrs, Director, Hope Not Handcuffs.
On Monday, chiefs from 15 police departments in Westchester County announced a partnership with Hope Not Handcuffs.
The partnership comes as the county saw a jump in opioid overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020.
"We are supposed to be solving problems, not just arresting people," said Chief Erik Grutzner, of Village of Pleasantville Police.
The program works by letting anyone who wants help in their fight with alcohol or drug addiction to walk into a participating police department, which will then contact volunteers called "angels" who will respond within 30 minutes. The angels assist them in navigating the system to get the help they need.
"The goal is to try get people before they enter the legal justice system," Kahrs said.
"Let me be clear of what this program is not: It is not a get-out-of-jail free card, nor is it a softening of those criminals who sell drugs and victimize people," Grutzner explained
Hope Not Handcuffs started in 2019 in Orange County and now operates throughout the lower Hudson Valley. It has helped at least 500 people.
Volunteers must complete a training session. The next one will be held on Aug. 18.