By  Miriam Aliberti —

Today we sit down with Jessica Scannell, City of Phoenix Police Department Volunteer, to get the 4-1-1 on Angel Initiative.

 Q: What is the Arizona Angel Initiative?

A.The Arizona Angel Initiative of Phoenix is a police assisted addiction recovery program aimed at reducing the shame and stigma associated with addiction by treating it as a disease instead of a crime. This program was initially created to fight the number of children being removed from the home due to drug addiction—we hope to offer treatment services before it gets to that point or to help when it does. The police are here to protect and serve—what better way than to help connect people reaching out to substance abuse treatment?

Q:  Who does the Arizona Angel Initiative help?

A. Anyone (teen or adult) who is struggling with substance use disorder. Financial circumstances, job restrictions, or dependent children need not hinder individuals seeking treatment. The majority of individuals with substance use disorder started using as adolescents. We have opened this program up to teenagers to help them get treatment early so they can avoid a possible future of sickness, pain, and lawbreaking to feed their addictions.

Q:  What kind of programs do you have for individuals seeking help?

A. We partner with many treatment providers in the hopes that we can connect individuals to the types of treatment that would most benefit them. We can help individuals find short or long term treatment including: residential, outpatient, medically assisted treatment, counseling, sober living, or even AA meetings. Some providers have the capacity to house children with their parents in treatment, or in some cases we can offer childcare through our partner Safe Families. Financial abilities can be a big concern for individuals seeking treatment, but we can connect clients to services in any financial setting. Some of our providers take private insurance, others take AHCCCS, and some offer help at no cost to the client.

Q:  What is the impact of Arizona Angel‘s Initiative work on the community and how are you changing statistics?

A.We are a brand new program that just went city wide in June 2018 and we’re excited to see how this program changes statistics going forward.

The police have learned that they can’t arrest their way out of this problem, but instead have the opportunity to reach out and offer support without judgment, isolation and punishment. We hope to help lower the city’s numbers of crimes, homeless, and children entering the foster care system by helping individuals find healing and recovery from their addictions  We depend on word of mouth to create awareness about this program. That’s why we are so grateful for this opportunity to share our services on Teen Strong.

Q:  How would someone who wants to use the services get started?

A.Walk into a precinct or up to an officer and ask to participate in the Angel Initiative. You may also call (602)316-8501. Our hours are Monday – Friday 7AM – 4pm. Bring an ID. We will check your background to make sure you qualify and an angel navigator or officer will work with you to find a good treatment provider. We will do our best to get you into treatment that day if possible.

We have some necessary criteria:

  • We require parental consent for those under 18.
  • Individuals may not have a warrant.
  • Violent convictions could limit the treatment options available.
  • Officers have the discretion to turn individuals away who are deemed a possible threat of harm to volunteers and providers.

This is a voluntary program. No individual can be forced into participating and they are free to withdraw at anytime.