A three-year-old program in Lucas County, Ohio is helping overdose survivors and others with addictions get the help they need to get clean. The Drug Abuse Response Team, or DART, offers drug addiction help to addicted individuals, and it’s making a difference. In fact, the success of this program is so profound that the state of Ohio recently provided $3 million in grants for other law enforcement agencies in the state to set up DART programs as well.

Opioid Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate

Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp is the founder of the DART program. He was inspired to act when he realized that all types of people were suffering from opioid addiction–it wasn’t just the criminal element. Tharp began to view addiction as a debilitating disease rather than a crime, and he realized that the old approach of arresting and incarcerating people with opioid addiction was outdated and ineffective. His department was arresting the same people over and over again, but nothing seemed to change. Tharp decided that he had to help these people who were sick. “We don’t lock people up for having cancer,” he told ABC news. “I realized we weren’t going to arrest our way out of this epidemic.”

So he started the DART program, which to date has offered drug addiction help to more than 2,400 people, helping them find their way into detox and drug treatment programs. Over the past three years, DART has had an 81 percent success rate in getting overdose survivors into treatment.

Seattle is another example of a city that’s trying new ways to help drug addicts. The city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program connects people with services and drug addiction help to help them recover from their addiction for the long-term and restore their lives. Seattle started LEAD in 2012 in response to over-aggressive policing that had long been tearing apart families and communities. Rather than spending funds on court hearings before people can get access to drug treatment programs, LEAD cuts out the middle man and gets people the help they need outside of the criminal justice system.

Addiction is a Disease, Not a Crime

Medical experts across the board agree that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. Quitting drugs is not a matter of willpower once an addiction has developed. The brain changes caused by addiction leads to compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. They lead people to seek out and use drugs as if their life depended on it. In fact, the brain mechanisms that cause cravings and lead people to use drugs compulsively are the same ones that compel us to eat food and procreate in order to stay alive and protect the species from extinction.

Treatment is Essential

Treatment is one of the most effective ways to help drug addicts. Treatment helps people end an addiction for the long-term. In treatment, people who are addicted develop the skills they need to cope with stress, cravings, and other relapse triggers. They work to find purpose and meaning in life, build their self-esteem, improve their self-awareness, and repair damaged relationships. They envision what they want their future to look like, and they set goals and get help finding the resources they need to achieve them.

Incarceration doesn’t work to end drug addiction. Lucas County, Ohio knows it, Seattle knows it, and many other municipalities that are starting their own version of DART and LEAD know it. The way to help people end an addiction is to provide them with the drug addiction help they need, not to lock them in a cell.

If you need drug addiction help, WhiteSands Treatment offers comprehensive programs that develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the multiple needs of an individual. Most people who engage in treatment end their addiction for the long term, and you can do it, too.



If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.