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"Chatham Cares 4 U" helps residents fight drug abuse

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"Chatham Cares 4 U" is an initiative within the small Chatham Police Department that connects users to resources, instead of arresting them. Now, the program is substantiated by a professor at the UAlbany School of Public Health.

"They're not the only one who has implemented this program in New York State," Assistant Professor Tomoko Udo said. "But they're by far the most successful one."

Encouraging residents struggling with substance abuse to turn over their drugs to police - no questions asked. That's what Chatham Cares 4 U does, and in return, addicts are placed in drug treatment programs, given the insurance necessary to cover it, and transported there by officers. The program is getting praise from Professor Udo, who's teamed up with the police chief.

"Our little Chatham police department has proven you can get help where people have felt helpless."

This interview with Chatham Police Chief Peter Volkmann is from just over a year ago, when the Chatham Cares 4 U Program began.

"I want people to know recovery is possible," he said.

And Udo says - it's working.

"The number was pretty amazing at that point..."

Assistant Professor Udo works with Chief Volkmann in organizing the data collected through this program.

"Being able to access a service like CC4U, where they can get into the treatment maybe even within a few hours, that really allows capturing that moment, the small window of opportunity, when people are motivated to change their behavior."

Udo says since the program began in July 2016, more than 140 addicts have walked through the police department doors - and more than 80% of them were placed in treatment within 24 hours.

"It's kind of radical, but it's logical for us," the chief said in 2017.

Udo says she's researching what's making this program so successful, and she says it's worth other communities looking into starting.

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