By Natasha Brown


BENSALEM, Pa (CBS) — A Bucks County police department is stepping up its fight to get help for people suffering from addiction. The Bensalem Township Police Department has launched a first-of-its-kind initiative, allowing people with addiction to live chat with a drug treatment professional at the police station without the fear of being arrested.

“I’m hoping to get some help, I gotta get off these drugs. It’s killing me,” Bensalem Police Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said during a demonstration.

It’s that kind of call for help that can make all the difference in eliminating the opioid crisis and now, Bensalem police is offering that assistance in a first-of-its-kind, state-of-the-art way.

Bensalem police — flanked by state and local officials — demonstrated a new video screening assessment program that will operate via teleconferencing.

Those seeking help from opioid addiction would come into the police department, meet with volunteers and quickly be assessed in a video exchange with Gaudenzia Health officials before receiving the help they need.

“We would check them. If you have drugs on you, you would not be arrested,” Harran said.

It cuts down the time it used to take for Bucks County officials to handle these cases in person.

“We have now taken something that took four or five hours and we’ve got it down to 20, 25 minutes,” Harran said. “You’ve got about a five-minute window before they’re going to decide to go get that next hit. You don’t have days or hours, you have minutes and that’s how quickly this addiction works.”

The assessor can expeditiously begin a bed search for the individual and get them into a treatment facility right away.

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“Treatment is really the way we’re going to solve this issue,” Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said. “Incarceration is really not the answer.”

Annemarie Murphy lost her sister-in-law to a heroin overdose seven years ago.

The Kaitlin Murphy Foundation will be providing rides to the treatment facilities.

“We are so proud to partner with the Bucks County police departments to offer transportation for these mobile assessments to a treatment center,” Murphy said.

The teleconferencing Bensalem Police Assisting In Recovery Program is the first in Pennsylvania.

It will be available initially Monday through Friday at the police department with the intention of making it a 24/7 initiative.