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HOLDING OUT HOPE: CLARKSTOWN’S NEW APPROACH TO DRUG ADDICTION STORY BY JOSEPH KUHN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAMANTHA FINCH

Hope Not Handcuffs Program partners with Clarkstown P.D. to help control the area’s growing substance abuse problem.

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he Clarkstown Police Department is ready to try something new, after years of struggling to contain a growing substance abuse epidemic that has ravaged the community. Rockland’s finest have partnered with Hope Not Handcuffs, an “initiative aimed at bringing law enforcement and community organizations together to find viable treatment options for those hoping to reduce dependencies on drugs and alcohol.” Hope Not Handcuffs’ method can be summarized in one word: compassion. The volunteers or “Angels” that make up the organization focus their efforts on aiding rather than punishing substance abusers. The police departments that partner with the program become safe havens for users seeking treatment. Any person struggling with addiction can walk into the building and request to speak with an Angel. Once they do, a volunteer will be called to the station to help them fill out the paperwork necessary to apply to a rehab 88 / Rivertown Magazine September 2019

facility and provide invaluable emotional support until a treatment option is found. “A lot of people don’t want to come forward because of the stigma,” explained Michie Christiana, one of the first Angels to volunteer in Rockland. Breaking that stigma is one of the major reasons HNH was formed. The Angels provide a safe space for substance abusers, where they’ll be treated with the respect and kindness so often denied them. They believe that is the key to getting people to come forward and seek treatment instead of causing further harm. Angels work to relieve stress for substance abusers and their families so they can better focus on recovery. Those the Angels help are often grateful for even the most basic acts of decency. “It was the first handshake they’d probably ever had,” said retired police officer Richard Dixon when recalling the relieved expression of one of the men he greeted during his time as an Angel.

Profile for Rivertown Magazine

Rivertown Magazine — September 2019  

Rivertown Magazine is Rockland County’s #1 local print magazine, published monthly by Moon Media Group, LLC. With a readership of over 100,0...

Rivertown Magazine — September 2019  

Rivertown Magazine is Rockland County’s #1 local print magazine, published monthly by Moon Media Group, LLC. With a readership of over 100,0...