GP police initiative asks addicts to come in, seek treatment

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Inspired by a similar program on the east coast and the passing of his niece from overdose, Lieutenant Dennis ward has created a new initiative of his own called “A New Way Home”.

The loss of his niece, Rebecca, in 2019, is one of the main reasons Lieutenant Dennis Ward is taking action on drug abuse.

“She was initially in a car accident and prescribed some opiates,” said Lt. Ward.

But the legal drugs, led to illegal ones, as Rebecca battled her addiction.

“[She] ended up getting into heroin itself and had a long struggle, probably 10 plus year struggle, before she died of the complications that were associated to drug abuse.”

Looking to create change, Lt. Ward is hoping to help struggling addicts in Grants Pass.

It’s similar to a program back east called ‘Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative’ or ‘PARRI’. The new program he’s creating is called “A New Way Home.”

“My brother and sister-in-law actually came up with the name itself because they, just like any parent, wanted their kid to come home,” said Lt. Ward.

He says drug use is a problem in Grants Pass.

“This year alone, Grants Police carry narcan, we’ve used it 37 times.”

“A New Way Home” allows addicts in possession of a controlled substance to come to the police department and ask for help, without the fear of getting arrested. “We recognize that sometimes when you look at us, our uniform can be a barrier. We’re saying ‘hey, come in, let us help you out,” Lt. Ward said.

Non-profit Options for Southern Oregon is partnering with Grants Pass Department of Public Safety on the program.

It’s director Rick Jones, believes the program can create positive change. He says drug abuse has gotten worse during the pandemic.

“You’re not going to jail. People are not going to expect more out of you than what you can put forth. We’re going to meet you where you’re at and actually help you figure out what you need to do next,” said Jones.

Jones says help is available and encourages drug users to reach out and take advantage of the initiative.

“What do they need to do today to get safe? Whether that’s housing, residential treatment or detox.”

“Drugs are related to a lot of the calls that we respond to in one way, shape or form. Drug abuse is a big thing in our community, so anything we can do to affect that on the positive side would be great,” said Lt. Ward.

To learn more about the initiative, contact the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety.

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Mariah Mills
NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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