By Nicholas Braswell
Nicholas Braswell is a criminal defense attorney who practices in the Richmond Area, New Kent, and Hopewell. Mr. Braswell is a former Public Defender. Currently, he handles a range of cases, from reckless driving, to driving under the influence, to felony charges.
The “War on Drugs” is getting a facelift in Richmond. If the police department is able to secure sufficient funding, it could be a significant change for both people with substance abuse addictions and the Richmond Police Department.
Deaths caused by heroin overdoses increased statewide in the previous eight years; Richmond has the highest percentages of those deaths, with the number of deaths doubling by May 2016 from what it had been a year previous with double the number of deaths by May 2016 than by the same date in 2015.
Richmond’s program will focus on those who have recently overdosed, but survived. It is an issue that is close to the heart of Captain Michael Zohab, supervisor in the Narcotics Unit, who is spearheading the program.
His nephew fatally overdosed on heroin in April 2016. He has spent the past year successfully working with potential partner facilities in the community, lobbying local officials, and convincing officers in the Narcotics Unit of the necessity of the program. The police department intends to be a bridge for people who stuffer with substance abuse addiction to find treatment in the community.
Ultimately, the goal of the program is for those who want treatment to come to the police department to request it, where they will be connected with volunteers who will get them admitted to rehabilitation facilities. The biggest concerns with a program like this are the costs associated with it, and the number of available openings in rehabilitation facilities.
The program will not, however, be used as an alternative to arrest for possession of a Schedule 1 substance or any other drug or substance in Chesterfield County. Schedule I substances are those that are deemed to have the highest rates of abuse so they are considered the most dangerous substances.
Heroin and drugs that contain heroin, such as ecstasy, are classified as Schedule I substances. Possession of a Schedule 1 drug is a class five felony, which is punishable with, at least, one and up to 10 years of incarceration.
It is unclear whether the Richmond police department will find the resources for the program to be successful long-term and how or if it will change once it is implemented. In any event, a program that is designed to help, rather than just punish, those struggling to overcome substance abuse addiction could be beneficial to the criminal justice system since it could impact the number of people being processed through it daily.