UNIONTOWN, Pa. (KDKA) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro visited Fayette County to tout a program designed to help those battling addiction.
The program involves law enforcement playing a major role in putting people into recovery programs and not handcuffs.READ MORE: Lawsuit: 14-Year-Old Girl Was Sexually Assaulted By McDonald's Manager Who Was Convicted Sex Offender
The program is called LETI, and it aims to have law enforcement be the first to direct people with addiction to help. Shapiro said putting people in prison for suffering a disease is not working.
Shapiro said the addiction crisis is a deadly numbers game, a game he believes we as a society and state are losing.
“Last year, we lost 3,954 fellow Pennsylvanians to the opioid crisis,” Shapiro said.
In Fayette County alone over the last five years, the county has lost 272 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children.
Shapiro was in Uniontown on Wednesday to announce the program. LETI stands for Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative. Its aim is to have police give those they pick up on minor drug charges information and contact points to help them cope with their addiction and focus on getting cleaned up, not locked up.READ MORE: Pennsylvania Gets $1 Billion From Nationwide Opioid Settlement
“We can now refer those individuals to programs and seek to offset legal consequences for those actively engaged in recovery services,” said Fayette County Sheriff James Custer.
“My name is Vinny. Take a look at me. This is what a recovering addict looks like,” said Vincent Weaver, board member of the Fayette County Drug and Alcohol Commission.
For Weaver, LETI beats the alternative.
“Now we have a tool. Our only tool used to be incarceration,” he said.
The program is geared to the person with addiction, not the dealer. Shapiro said the vast majority of law enforcement wants people to get help.
“By getting law enforcement involved in the early stages, I hope we are minimizing the stigma with substance abuse disorder,” Shapiro said.MORE NEWS: South Side Violence Pits Bar Owners Against Residents With Police In The Middle
The program is active in nine counties.