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Denver’s Roads to Recovery initiative prioritizes treatment over jail

staticwire | April 3, 2024
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The city of Denver is taking a new approach to tackling addiction and mental health challenges, with a program called Roads to Recovery. This initiative, spearheaded by Mayor Mike Johnston, aims to divert 200 people struggling with addiction or mental health challenges out of the criminal justice system and into a city-coordinated pipeline of intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation support by the end of the year.

One of the key motivations for this program is the recognition that individuals like Aly Garrett, who are dealing with addiction issues, often face a fragmented network of care with little support. Garrett, who is on probation for charges related to fentanyl use, shared her struggles with finding appropriate treatment programs and navigating the complexities of the system. She highlighted the challenges of accessing help and the overwhelming nature of probation services.

The Roads to Recovery program is part of Mayor Johnston’s broader efforts to address issues of homelessness and mental health in the city. The program draws inspiration from the success of previous initiatives like House 1,000, which focused on expanding homeless shelter options, and the Social Impact Bond program, which provided housing and support services to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

However, the Roads to Recovery program is not without its critics and concerns. City Councilwoman Sarah Parady emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the program does not prioritize punishment over care and does not force individuals into treatment programs against their will. Lisa Raville, executive director of the Harm Reduction Action Center, raises questions about the potential for mandatory treatment and its effectiveness in addressing addiction and mental health challenges.

Despite these concerns, Mayor Johnston and administration officials maintain that the program is designed to identify and support high-risk individuals with services and supervision, rather than imposing involuntary treatment. The focus is on providing better services to individuals with addiction and mental health challenges in order to keep them out of jail and reduce the strain on city resources.

The Roads to Recovery program is still in its early stages, with city officials working to coordinate with nonprofit providers and gather input on how to make the program successful. By focusing on collaboration, communication, and centralized data systems, the program aims to provide more effective and streamlined support to individuals like Aly Garrett, who are in need of assistance.

Ultimately, the success of the Roads to Recovery program will depend on the city’s ability to engage with community partners, address concerns about mandatory treatment, and provide comprehensive and accessible services to those struggling with addiction and mental health challenges. With a goal of diverting individuals away from the criminal justice system and towards much-needed support and rehabilitation, the program represents a promising step forward in Denver’s efforts to address these critical issues.

Written by staticwire

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