TYLER, TX (KLTV) -A new program here in East Texas is aimed at helping people dealing with addiction.
While a sheriff’s office isn’t usually the first place a drug addict goes for help, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office will now offer help through a new program aimed to get opioid users into treatment.
“We can’t lock up enough people to where we fix this issue," Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said.
The program, “Hope Not Handcuffs,” will change how Smith County deputies handle drug-related crimes.
“We need to fight this from every avenue," Smith said. “All we’re doing is getting them the tools they need to fight the addiction.”
The aim is to bring together law enforcement and community agencies like UT Health East Texas to assist people seeking help breaking their addiction to heroin and other drugs.
“Our hope is saving people’s lives, saving people’s families and keeping them out of the criminal justice system,” Smith said.
Dr. Emmanuel Elueze, vice president for Medical Education and Professional Development at UT Health East Texas, reported that “medically we can’t solve this problem without the support of law enforcement and even the criminal justice system.”
Dr. Elueze says arresting people addicted to opioids has not been effective.
“Addiction continues to be a major problem in this country, responsible for significant mobility and mortality,” explains Dr. Elueze.
When an addict goes the sheriff’s office near downtown Tyler and asks for help, a trained volunteer, referred to as an “angel,” is summoned to help guide the addict to treatment.
“If we can stop it upfront. I know it’s hard to measure what progress we made, but if we can do it, I have no doubt in my mind we’ve curtailed a great deal of crime,” Smith said.
The Tyler Police Department said they’re considering joining the program.