This Friday, specialists in addiction and mental health will join local police officers on their patrols in jurisdictions across Lancaster County.
Together, they will connect with community members struggling with substance abuse disorder or untreated mental health problems, and offer help.
The ride-along is sponsored by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office in partnership with the nonprofit Blueprints for Addiction Recovery. It’s the latest step in ongoing local efforts to identify and de-escalate incidents stemming from mental illness or substance abuse, and to direct individuals to appropriate recovery services, individuals who might otherwise be arrested, charged and jailed.
Participating police departments
- East Cocalico Township
- East Lampeter Township
- Manheim Township
- Millersville University
- Northwest Regional
- Pequea Township
- West Lampeter Township
Source: Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office
Blueprints is providing the counselors and specialists who will take part. At least 10 police departments are scheduled to participate.
In a statement, District Attorney Heather Adams said: “With the support of Blueprints and police, we can make a meaningful difference to those in need of mental health and substance abuse services.”
Blueprints is the originator of Second Chance PA, an initiative that allows police departments to refer individuals for treatment. Almost all of the departments in the county are participating; as part of the program, Blueprints makes staff members available 24/7 to respond to crisis incidents.
Blueprints launched the ride-along program a year ago. Currently, Blueprints team members join Lancaster city police twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and are available to other departments upon request.
They work “shoulder to shoulder” with police officers and build connections, said Blueprints’ founder and CEO Chris Dreisbach.
It’s truly multiplicative,” he said. “There are so many different relationships and different things these ride-alongs can bring up for folks who are struggling, or (for) loved ones, people who know others who struggling.”
The ride-alongs with city police have yielded 184 contacts so far, with 54% resulting in connections to treatment services.
“Not only has this partnership made a difference in the community, but it has also helped promote and develop more well-rounded police officers,” city police Capt. Kurt Miller said in a statement.
For Friday, each department is choosing its own timeframe, and they vary widely. The first one is scheduled to start at noon, and the last one will wrap up around 6 a.m. Saturday, Dreisbach said.
Blueprints is deploying at least a dozen staff members: Two each in Lancaster city and Manheim Township, one apiece elsewhere. Additionally, two specialists will be on call, available if teams in the field need to hand off a case and continue their rounds.
Dreisbach said he hopes the ride-alongs aren’t just a one-time event, but can be developed into a regular offering.
He said he’s excited for Friday. In a Facebook post, he thanked the participating departments and wrote: “I can’t wait to see how many lives we will be able to impact on this massively important night.”