Shakopee police are recycling money seized during drug arrests to offer as much as $3,000 to addicts for treatment.
The south metro department is the first in Minnesota to join a national movement of police guiding residents with drugs or alcohol addiction toward rehabilitation and away from jail cells. The program is designed to promote recovery after drug arrests, frequently for methamphetamine and heroin, which increased 33 percent in Shakopee last year.
“We know we’re not going to arrest our way out or ticket our way out of this issue,” Police Chief Jeff Tate said.
The program is open to Shakopee residents, with or without a criminal record. Two nearby treatment centers are working with the program: Five Stars Recovery Center in Chaska and Sage Prairie Inc. in Burnsville.
The “scholarship” money comes from drug and alcohol forfeitures. Four people have benefited so far, and they are required to give monthly updates on their recovery.
“One of the biggest problems our clients have is financial stressors,” said Jason Vanderscoff of Five Stars. “Taking away that financial burden early on is absolutely huge.”
Thumbing through his Narcotics Anonymous key tags, Henry Henk — a bright-eyed teenager studying welding — feels clean.
Henk, 19, of Shakopee, has been through a revolving door of treatment centers since his criminal conviction for drug possession last summer. His latest round of care was assisted by the department that arrested him.
“It’s cool that they’re recognizing that I’m actually doing good,” Henk said.
Tate and Henk have never met other than through Tate’s handwritten letter offering him a place in the program. They’re due for lunch soon.
Henk added that he hopes to learn from his mistakes and make a difference with his life. “Or else, it’s kind of pointless to keep living,” he said.
A national model
The program is modeled after a Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) born in Gloucester, Mass., last year that has since gained more than 100 law enforcement partners in 23 states. No other Minnesota department has yet joined, according to spokeswoman Chelsea Curley.
Each PAARI program offers variations on amnesty, funding and assistance standards. The Shakopee version does not drop charges against recipients.
The common vision is to reduce deaths and relapses and better use resources.
“What you are seeing is the pent-up frustration of police officers,” said David Rosenbloom, a professor of health policy and management at the Boston University School of Public Health who has studied Gloucester’s program. “In the past, [they] have been given a set of tools and expectations that didn’t work.”
Forgiveness is a tenet across all the programs.
“This is a disease, and maybe there really are things police officers can do to help people start on the way to recovery,” Rosenbloom said. “And in the meantime, help prevent them from dying.”
Call and response
Police departments nationwide have been announcing their PAARI-like programs through social channels.
In Rolling Meadows, Ill., a suburb outside Chicago of about 24,000 people, a Facebook post debuting the Police Department’s program sprung up last summer during a Cubs game. Branding its take the “Second Chance program,” the department invited struggling addicts to meet with an officer — face no charges — and receive outpatient treatment for free.
The Shakopee department’s quippy tweet came on 4/20.
“Since it’s 420, we would like to welcome all drug dealers to use our lobby for their transactions today. Please check in at the front desk,” the department tweeted.
The account then followed up: “To be serious for a moment, if you need help with treatment for drugs/alcohol, we have a $3K scholarship towards treatment. PM for details.”
Natalie Daher • 612-673-1775