The City of Santa Fe is trying out a new way of dealing with drug offenders. Recently the City Council passed a resolution to use a model that focuses on treatment instead of jail. A task force that included the Chief of Police, the City District Attorney and members of the community studied the relationship between property crimes and illegal opiate drug use.
The Drug Policy Alliance's Emily Keltenbach served on the task force. She says based on the findings, this innovative approach has the potential to change communities. "What happens now is that if someone is caught with a small amount of heroin or pills, they are immediately booked into jail and they move through the criminal justice system." But Keltenbach explains that Santa Fe's new approach will look nothing like that. "What's different about this model is that it really treats it as a health issue, so if someone is picked up with small amounts of opiates by a law enforcement officer, they can divert that person immediately to an intensive case manager who puts them into treatment and sets up social supports."
Supporters of the new model say rates of recidivism, crime and drug overdoses are expected to drop significantly. So far the City of Santa Fe has committed $100,000 to the 3 year pilot program that is slated to begin in January.