Are we all over feeling like “it can’t happen here” when it comes to the heroin epidemic? I’m encouraged to see the Town of Warrenton is, at least. Tragically, as a whole, Fauquier County has reported 16 overdose deaths so far this year – which matches the total for all of 2015. Warrenton accounted for four of those deaths, and reported 17 overdoses so far for 2016. But Warrenton is fighting back. The Police Chief, aptly named Louis Battle, has launched an “all-out offensive.” But it’s not what you might think when you hear the words “police” and “offensive.” It’s not about stings or raids or sweeps to put max numbers of drug addicts in jail. Instead, Chief Battle says the Warrenton Police Department is “working with church groups, the community…any type of program we can.”
This is what will make a difference in the “war on drugs.” By focusing on police acting collaboratively with community groups who provide treatment for drug abusers, treating addiction as a social and medical issue instead of a strictly criminal one, Warrenton stands a better chance of curbing their local epidemic and saving lives. While the legal system can be useful in mandating treatment for drug addiction, one thing we know that is NOT useful is locking people up, charging them with a felony (which will change the course of their lives as surely as addiction will) and thinking that we are “winning” the war on heroin and other drugs. We can’t build enough jails to fight the epidemic this way, and we shouldn’t try. Kudos to Warrenton for working to find a better way.