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Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro visited Fayette County to tout a program designed to help those with addiction issues. KDKA's Ross Guidotti has more.
STACY SMITH: A new state program is trying to help people battling addiction. As Ross Guidotti reports, it involves law enforcement putting people into recovery programs instead of handcuffs.
ROSS GUIDOTTI: It is called the LETI program, and according to the state's attorney general, it gives police officers the option to tell people suffering from addiction where to go to get help, because according to the attorney general, putting people in jail who are sick is not helping the situation.
The State Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, says the addiction crisis is a deadly numbers game, and it's a game he believes we as a society and a state are losing.
JOSH SHAPIRO: Last year, we lost 3,954 fellow Pennsylvanians to this opioid crisis. In Fayette County alone over the last five years, we've lost 272 brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and children.
ROSS GUIDOTTI: Shapiro was in Uniontown to announce Fayette County joining the AG's LETI program. Now, LETI stands for Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative. Now, its aim is to have police give those they pick up on minor drug charges information and contact points to help them cope with their addiction and focus on getting them cleaned and not getting them locked up.
JOSH SHAPIRO: We can now refer those eligible individuals to community-based programs and seek to offset legal consequences for those who actively engage in recovery services.
VINCENT WEAVER: My name is Vinny, and take a look at me, because this is what a recovering addict looks like.
ROSS GUIDOTTI: Vinny Weaver is also a board member of the Fayette County Drug and Alcohol Commission. For Weaver, LETI beats the alternative.
VINCENT WEAVER: Now we have a tool. Our only tool used to be incarceration, you know, get you off the street.
ROSS GUIDOTTI: The program is geared to the addict and not the dealer. Shapiro says the vast majority of law enforcement want people to get help, and he says compassion and the need for law and order are not mutually exclusive.
JOSH SHAPIRO: By getting law enforcement involved in the early stages of this at the initial steps, I hope what we're also doing is minimizing the stigma associated with substance-use disorder, minimizing the stigma associated with raising your hand and saying, I need help.
ROSS GUIDOTTI: The LETI program right now has nine counties involved, including Fayette County. Josh Shapiro says he expects more counties to get involved in this program. Ross Guidotti, KDKA News.