EMS agency, police departments collaborate to get addicts treatment instead of jail time

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LANCASTER, Pa. --  A new partnership in Lancaster County is giving people who suffer from addiction a second chance at life.

It's a collaboration between Susquehanna Valley EMS, several police departments, and Blueprints for Addiction Recovery.

According to its website, Blueprints offers intensive outpatient rehab and partial hospitalization.

First responders with Susquehanna Valley EMS are no stranger to emergencies involving drugs, particularly, overdoses.

Now, with just a phone call, a Blueprints Certified Recovery Specialist, who knows all about addiction, will be on scene to immediately offer addicts treatment.

"It's unfortunate that overdoses are more and more these days that we have to deal with, and instead of getting angry and get upset with them, we're trying to help them in a positive manner," explained Adam Marden, operations manager at Susquehanna Valley EMS.

"To my knowledge, we are the first in the entire country to do this multi-faceted approach with first responders to be on scene at overdoses," said Chris Dreisbach, the CEO of Blueprints for Addiction Recovery.

Dreisbach says the specialist will help anyone with a dependency, like the person who just overdosed or someone who drinks too much.

"What we've also done is make the police departments that join us a safe haven so anybody that goes into the department can say, 'hey, I have a couple bags of heroin and a needle, please get me help,' and they don't have to worry about fear of prosecution," explained Dreisbach.

"It feels good cause I have friends and family and maybe have some abuse issues, and it's good to know maybe there is a route out there, other than arresting them, other than stacking up charges - they're not going to get the help they need," said Abby Shaeffer, an officer at Northwest Regional Police in Mount Joy Township.

The specialists know a thing or two about addiction, and that's more than some first responders can say.

"The one thing with blueprints is it's recovering addicts running it. I can't relate to the people on the streets as well as they can," explained Shaeffer.

If a patient declines help the first time around, specialists don't give up. They call back after 24 hours, 48 hours, 96 hours... up to two weeks worth of calls.

"It's just a crazy social experiment we're doing to see if we can curb the opioid epidemic, and I'm pretty confident it's going to do a lot," added Dreisbach.

In 2018, Susquehanna Valley EMS first fought back against the opioid epidemic.

First responders with the agency began offering patients Toradol which is a safer alternative than addictive opioids such as  morphine and fentanyl.

Susquehanna Valley EMS says their goal is to have other first responders collaborate with Blueprints and offer those with an addiction a new path.

So far, Elizabethtown Borough and Northwest Regional Police Departments have collaborated with Blueprints.

To get more information on Blueprint's Second Chance Program, call or text (717) 618-9628.

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