Seeking new solution for substance abusers at risk of death in Fresno
Citing a rise in deaths of pedestrians under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp Thursday announced an expanded partnership with the Fresno Rescue Mission to help potential victims gain sobriety.
Dyer cited the deaths of 30 pedestrians in Fresno in 2018, at least 19 of whom were under the influence when they were killed, as evidence that more efforts are needed.
Smittcamp said the passage of Proposition 47, which turned many drug offenses from felonies into misdemeanors, is driving a need to find new approaches to reaching chronic abusers of alcohol, methamphetamine, opioids and other drugs.
Reducing drug penalties makes it difficult for authorities to compel abusers to enter programs, Dyer and Smittcamp said, and an unintended consequence is more people with substance abuse issues are on the street. (Efforts to reach proponents of the state’s new drug laws Thursday were unsuccessful.)
Under the proposal, instead of arresting those under the influence, police would connect them with a Rescue Mission contact, someone who survived an addiction, to start them on the road to sobriety. Smittcamp said that the District Attorney’s office would not file criminal charges for those who followed through. If they failed to do so, they could get another chance at the Fresno Superior Court drug court, she added.
Rob Cravy, a pastor and chief operating officer at the Rescue Mission, said those seeking help at the sobriety center need not be a Christian, and that all faiths would be welcome in the program.