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Dysart Willis

North Carolina town offers HOPE, not handcuffs

Raleigh is like so many other North Carolina cities: the police make no exceptions when it comes to arresting people suspected of criminal activity. In the small town of Nashville (about 45 miles northeast of us), the police chief is trying to get recovery help for addicts rather than arresting them for drug crimes.

Chief Thomas Bashore and Nashville town manager Hank Raper have created a program called HOPE. The initiative is designed to stem the rise of opioid addiction that plagues their town of less than 6,000 residents and much of the state. 

North Carolina has seen a surge of more than 340 percent in drug overdose fatalities from 2010 to 2016. Chief Bashore hopes to slow the spread of what some call an epidemic.

"He saved my life for sure," a 24-year-old former addict recently said of the chief. "I owe a lot to him and the program."

According to the news report, the chief has a standing offer to any addict who contacts him: they will get help, not handcuffs. Addicts can get medical help for their opioid cravings without fear of being arrested, even if they are carrying drugs when ask for assistance.

There's no clear characteristic of what a heroin or opioid addiction looks like," said Raper. "It's not a white problem, it's not a black problem, it's not a Hispanic problem, middle class, working class, upper class. It affects all peoples of all walks of life."

Bashore adds that people can walk in the police station door and not have to worry about legal ramifications. He is there to get them to recovery, not put them behind bars.

While the town's approach is hailed as an effective way to battle opioid addiction problems, it is the exception and not the rule.

Here in Raleigh, heroin possession results in a felony charge that can mean significant incarceration time. An attorney experienced in drug defense can help you fight for your freedom and rights.