Hope Not Handcuffs gives addicts a chance to recover instead of jail

- A new program is changing the way addiction is handled, with treatment instead of prison.

Hope Not Handcuffs started in February and has currently helped nearly 600 people in a quest to get sober. About 1,000 people plan on keeping the program going.

They all have a story of how it happened.

"The first time I drank, I did a fifth of vodka in 45 minutes," said Carl, a recovering addict.

"It started with normal partying in high school and stuff like that, and progressed on into some heavier drug use," said recovering addict Scott Steenbergh.

"My biggest fear wasn't what was going to happen to me if I kept using," said Amy, a recovering addict. "My biggest fear was that people are going to make me stop using and make me face life sober. And for me, that was going to be miserable and painful."

Thankfully, the recovering addicts Tuesday night in Sterling Heights had another story - one of survival.  That's where Families Against Narcotics came in.

"That's what we rely on, our donations," said Katie Donovan of Hope Not Handcuffs. "All of us are volunteers it takes a village to combat this."

Nearly 1,000 people packed a banquet hall to raise money for the non-profit fight to keep addicts clean.

"This is our epidemic, this is our Ebola, this is killing people right now by the millions and we have to do something about it," said Steenbergh.

And this year they took the war on drugs to a new battlefield.

"A lot thought the last place someone struggling with addiction would go to is a police department, but it's working," Donovan said.

Hope Not Handcuffs was introduced back in February.

"Someone can walk into a police department and ask for help with their addiction and we will get them into treatment right away," Donovan said.

It has grown to 33 departments in five counties and 200 volunteers are ready to take people directly to rehab because they know timing is everything.

"The window of opportunity is this big when they are willing," Donovan said. "Because they don't want to get sick and when they start to withdraw, they become sick and it is the worst possible feeling in the world."

"When we go to a state agency and we say we have someone who needs treatment right now and they say come back in three weeks that's unacceptable," Steenbergh said.

Within minutes an addict is in recovery saving an officer from making an arrest or visiting a family to inform them of an overdose.

"If you take drugs and alcohol away from an addict without recovery we extremely miserable," Amy said.

The plan now is to keep the program growing until all police agencies are on board.

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