Assemblymember Wallace, Cheektowaga Police Department Announce Initiatives to Combat Substance Abuse

Today, Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster) and Cheektowaga Police Chief Brian Gould announced $17,500 in funding for a substance abuse screening program used by the Cheektowaga Police Department to screen individuals for substance addiction and immediately connect them with treatment.

The funding was used by the Cheektowaga Police Department to provide training for officers, dispatchers, and matrons to assist them in better understanding the challenges of addiction and familiarize them with the resources available to help those struggling with addiction.Additionally, the department purchased three tablets that are used by officers to screen individuals for substance abuse during a police encounter.If treatment is indicated, the individual is connected with a substance treatment provider the very next day. Sarah Bonk, LMSW, Coordinator of Diversion Services from Endeavor Health Services, is also embedded within the department to assist officers in responding to behavioral health needs in the community.

“Individuals struggling with addiction need treatment, not jail,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “I applaud Chief Gould, Sarah Bonk, and the entire Cheektowaga Police Department for working to address the behavioral and addiction issues that lead to the police encounter in the first place.If we can get to the root causes of their problems, hopefully, we can prevent future criminal behavior. This program should serve as a model for police departments across our region and across our state.Thank you to all those involved in this lifesaving program.”

“This funding has allowed the Cheektowaga Police Department to develop a new program in which we screen all individuals who come through our booking room,” said Chief Gould. “We are hopeful that this program will help us ensure those who are in need of assistance are given the chance to get the help they need.”

Last year, fatal drug overdoses surged by 30 percent, which was the largest single-year increase recorded, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The surge in drug-related deaths came amid the COVID-19 pandemic and followed several years of incremental progress in combating the opiate epidemic.

So far, CPD has referred 16 individuals for treatment through New York Matters.

“Substance abuse remains a top concern for many of our residents here in Cheektowaga. On behalf of the entire Town Board, we are thankful that Assemblywoman Monica Wallace was able to secure the grant funds necessary to get this new Substance Abuse Screening program up and running at the Cheektowaga Police Department,” said Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.

“During the last year, the community saw a rise in the frequency of overdoses.At that point it became critical to ensure that individuals who interface with the criminal justice system have direct access to comprehensive care,” said Sara Bonk, Coordinator of Diversion Services for Endeavor Health Services. “Addressing the stigma surrounding substance use is an important part of implementing effective service delivery through a law enforcement agency and we were able to accomplish this through grants like these.”

To further help individuals who are struggling with substance abuse, CPD is donating $1,300 worth of clothing and necessities to Kids Escaping Drugs Renaissance Campus. The facility is used to provide treatment to 12- to 24-year-olds who are struggling with substance abuse, many of whom lack basic clothing necessities.

“We value our partnership with the Cheektowaga Police Department and are so grateful for their unwavering commitment to our mission to combat the disease of addiction across Western New York,” said Kids Escaping Drugs Executive Director Robin Clouden. “We wouldn’t be able to provide our lifesaving programming without the generosity of the community.A special thank you to Assemblywoman Monica Wallace for helping to bring this grant to fruition.”