In Richmond, Virginia, the police department now partners with people in long-term recovery to get them clean and sober. Richmond’s Addiction Uncuffed is a nonprofit that provides peer recovery specialists who want to help people get clean and sober. They start off by offering them assistance getting into treatment.

Modeled After the Angel Program

The partnership is part of a program modeled after the Angel Program, an initiative created by the police force in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In the Angel Program, police have helped get 400 people into drug treatment and off of the streets. As part of the program, police officers become the “good guys,” personally reaching out to people with substance use disorders and helping pair them with treatment centers, arranging transportation to treatment and pair them with a volunteer “Angel” for emotional support.

The Angels are recovering addicts with significant amounts of time clean from alcohol and drugs.

Dozens of cities across the country have created similar programs based on their success rate.


Richmond’s Peer Recovery Program

Richmond police do ride-alongs where they look for “frequent flyers” in the justice system. The people who are often arrested for petty theft and drug possession are often out on the street during these rides. Sometimes the ride-alongs end up on a drug call where the specialist can talk to the addicted at a time where they are feeling the most vulnerable.

A peer recovery specialist then speaks with the individual, telling their story and urging them to get help for their addiction. The specialist often gives out his or her phone number to the people they encounter, but there is a lot of red tape in Virginia, and it’s not easy to get people the help they need.

Resources are limited in the Richmond area, with one detox center and a few recovery programs. Usually, there is a wait time for a bed, which puts people seeking help in a difficult position. Even detoxes are typically full.

When detox is full, it can force a person to go to an emergency department to detox the drugs from their system. While it’s easier to get a person into an outpatient treatment program, many clients are homeless, and there is little help for people who need safe housing.

Knowing there are few resources, the police department hopes that their partnership with recovery peer specialists will provide the support that people with substance use disorders need, a little extra “push” to get the help they need.