Hope Not Handcuffs Program Helps Police with Addiction Cases

We are part of The Trust Project

People struggling with addiction to hard drugs, opioids or alcohol don’t voluntarily show up at their local police station for help. But that is changing.

At a press conference last week, Pleasantville Police Chief Erik Grutzner was joined by 15 local police chiefs from Westchester County departments to announce their participation in Hope Not Handcuffs, a program providing police with tools to help those in need.

Hope Not Handcuffs has been helping those battling addiction since 2019 here in the Hudson Valley. The non-profit organization works in tandem with law enforcement agencies to direct substance abusers to the most helpful treatment centers. Anyone in need can come to any participating police department in Westchester County and ask for help without fearing arrest. Once there, a call is made to Hope Not Handcuffs and within 30 minutes an “Angel,” a trained volunteer, will arrive to guide the person into treatment.

Police officers who participate in the Hope Not Handcuffs program
Front Row Chief Erik Grutzner Pleasantville PD Chief James Carroll New Castle PD Chief David Dosin Hastings on Hudson PD Chief Melvin Padilla Bedford PD Lt Brant Samman North Castle PD Chief Andrew Matturro Scarsdale PD Chief Christopher McNerney Greenburgh PD Back Row Det Antonio Guzzo Sleepy Hollow PD Chief John Barbelet Tarrytown PD Chief Frank Pignatelli Irvington PD Chief Paul Oliva Mount Pleasant PD Lt James Graham Yorktown PD Chief Anthony Piccolino Ardsley PD

Grutzner said the program made it is easier to help those in need.  “In the past the logistics in opening our doors to anyone who needs this help was daunting. With the partnership with Hope Not Handcuffs in the Hudson Valley, we can provide help to those who need it.”

An estimated1.8 million New Yorkers suffer with substance abuse, a number that has increased and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Annette Kahrs, Hope Not Handcuffs-New York Program Director, was at the press conference, flanked by four volunteer Angels.

The organization currently has 600 volunteers and has operated under the umbrella of the Tri-County Community Partnership since 2018. In January 2021, the Tri-County Community Partnership was awarded a $288,000 federal grant to collaborate with researchers studying drug addiction; funds were also used to hire recovery counselors.

At the press conference Kahrs appealed for volunteers. “The pandemic has affected so many people, especially those with addictions. We are seeking volunteers, there’s no previous experience necessary, all you need is compassion and the willingness to help someone in need.” Kahrs added that the training is two hours long.

In April, as part of the Pleasantville Police Quarterly Report to the village board, Grutzner announced that his department was sending supervisors to participate in Hope Not Handcuffs training to expand the department’s understanding of addictions. At the press conference last week, he told of efforts by a former detection who reached out to a local youngster struggling with addiction.

“She recognized the signs of addiction in a local kid she knew and made calls to get him into treatment,” Grutzner said. “She found a facility that was covered by his insurance, she secured a bed, she found the transportation and she followed up to make sure the youngster arrived. When word got out that the youngster had been helped, the detective was approached by two of the youngster’s friends and she did the same for them.”

Following is the list of participating police departments in Westchester to date, with more being added regularly. Hope Not Handcuffs is also working with police departments in Putnam, Rockland and Sullivan counties.

Ardsley Police Department, Bedford Police Department, Greenburgh Police Department, Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department, Irvington Police Department, Mount Pleasant Police Department, New Castle Police Department, North Castle Police Department, Ossining Police Department, Pleasantville Police Department, Scarsdale Police Department, Sleepy Hollow Police Department, Tarrytown Police Department, Westchester County Police Department, Yorktown Police Department


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.