Pubdate: Wed, 02 Mar 2016
Source: Ithaca Times (NY)
Copyright: Ithaca Times 2016
Author: Josh Brokaw


A Four-Pillar Plan

The supervised injection facility for heroin users proposed as part 
of Ithaca's new municipal drug policy garnered lots of media 
attention, but not much in the way of praise from local law 
enforcement leaders.

Tompkins County Sheriff Kenneth Lansing said his department was not 
consulted in the development of the drug plan.

"We all know that people that are doing things they shouldn't be 
doing are paranoid, and I'm just not sure how safe they're going to 
feel going to a facility that's going to allow them to do this," 
Lansing said about the injection facility. "There are hurdles with 
the legality to look at. Nothing against the mayor; I think he's 
doing a hell of a job, no doubt about it, and the plan has some great 
ideas. I just can't accept [the injection facility], and I can't support it."

Ithaca police Chief John Barber said that as "an officer of the law, 
I have to uphold the law."

"I applaud Mayor Myrick for coming up with a plan that's not business 
as usual," Barber said. "I don't agree with all aspects, but [the 
plan] could do a lot of good and ultimately save lives."

Even if the injection facility comes to be at all, it's certainly not 
happening immediately. The facility does have the backing of Gwen 
Wilkinson, the Tompkins County district attorney, but as Myrick said 
at the Feb. 24 press conference the city has "no interest putting 
time and resources into something that will be shut down a couple 
days later." Getting the power to open such a facility will likely 
take a legal change or at least the governor's support, the mayor said.

One major recommendation in the "Ithaca Plan" does not face any legal 
hurdles: starting a"law enforcement assisted diversion" (LEAD) 
program. The LEAD concept was pioneered in Seattle in 2011.

The "diversion" in LEAD means that police can use their discretion to 
"reroute people into the intake process, rather than court," Barber 
said. One of the findings in the Ithaca Plan is that drug courts "are 
not a sufficient solution" because of the strict requirements like 
total abstinence from substances.

The gist of the LEAD idea is to get people struggling with addiction 
some help, rather than adding to their complications by further 
entangling them in the criminal justice system or taking them back to 
the emergency room for one more night that doesn't solve any of their 
underlying problems.

"We can't, and neither can the hospitals, take these frequent 
fliers-the people who are constantly taking up the professional 
facilities," Lansing said. "The hospital doesn't have the time or the 
staff to deal with that, and other than putting them in a cell by 
themselves there's not much that we at the jail can do. It's a very 
difficult thing, withdrawal."

In July 2015 Albany became the first New York city to approve the 
concept, and it has since received at least one grant of $70,000 from 
a private foundation to hire a staffer.

The memorandum of understanding passed by Albany's Common Council to 
start their LEAD program calls for a protocol-making committee made 
up of representatives from law enforcement and relevant county and 
city departments, like mental health. Non-profit service providers 
and the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City nonprofit that played a 
large role in writing the Ithaca Plan, serve at will on the committee 
in an advisory role.

In July 2015 Barber attended meetings on the LEAD concept hosted by 
the White House. He said at the Feb. 24 press conference that he came 
back "renewed" after seeing how a plan could be "put together for a 
specific person, and then it's working."

Barber couldn't provide numbers offhand, but said that people with 
drug problems are responsible for well over half of property crimes in Ithaca.

"People who are addicted are stealing to support their habit," Barber 
said. "There are a small number of people in the community who are in 
and out on a regular basis, and the way we approach it now is not working."

"Police officers are in the field every day building a rapport with 
people," Barber continued. "[LEAD] is really another form of 
community policing."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom