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Many opioid users can get help without getting in trouble, thanks to a Pa. law enforcement program 

Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative officer lending a supportive hand to woman

For addicts, choosing to seek help may seem like a risk. It may mean admitting to possibly illegal behavior, like illicit drug use.

But it doesn’t need to be a risk at all. You can get treatment without getting in trouble, even by going directly to the police. That’s the promise of a law enforcement program already in place in over one third of Pennsylvania.

The Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative, or LETI, aims to aid those suffering from substance use disorder by breaking the stigma of addiction and increasing available resources, bringing police and county leaders on board. In 28 participating Pennsylvania counties, police officers are given leeway to overlook minor drug offenses and instead are trained to direct anyone who needs help with substance abuse to organizations that are ready and willing to offer assistance, like the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug & Alcohol Commission, or CMP.

Carbon and Monroe counties both participate in the program, which means every law enforcement entity in both counties takes part in this new and increasingly widespread way of combatting what the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office calls “our greatest public safety challenge” — an epidemic of overdose deaths, the number one accidental killer in Pennsylvania.

“People trust their local police officers, and now they can walk in their municipal police department and be able to get the help they need,” then-Attorney General and current Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a 2019 Times News report when Carbon County became the second in the state to join what was then called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or PA LEAD.

By 2023, Monroe became the 23rd county  to join LETI. As of early 2024, there are 28 participating counties. The goal is still the same: Fight drug addiction with treatment, not punishment.

“You cannot arrest yourself out of this problem,” Pennsylvania’s Executive Deputy Attorney General Michelle Walsh said when Monroe joined LETI, according to the Times News. She called it a “revolving door,” having seen the same people commit the same offenses, appear before the same judge, serve their sentence or probation, then a few weeks later do it all again. “There was no sense of treatment, no help for these individuals.”

LETI offers a way out of that “revolving door.”


Through the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, LETI seeks to save lives and show that law enforcement has multiple ways to promote public safety.

When someone goes to police seeking help in a participating county, like Carbon or Monroe, they will not face arrest or prosecution for minor drug offenses. Instead, after conducting a brief intake, an officer will immediately help connect that person with treatment resources.

It’s a practice known as “deflection,” and it is becoming more widely used in situations where an individual will benefit from treatment opportunities, according to the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative, or PTACC. In 2021, PTACC relocated its national headquarters to Pennsylvania  to promote the LETI program, particularly in underserved areas like rural regions and communities of color.

Local district attorneys can choose to start a local LETI program in their counties. In those counties that participate, the AG’s office helps police and other county officials establish connections with local drug and alcohol commissions, like CMP. It’s up to departments to maintain those relationships and track statistics to help evaluate the program.

Since 2020, LETI has received 1,370 referrals statewide.


Redirecting users toward treatment rather than punishment has numerous benefits. Users of course see the most direct impact, getting the help they need for a potentially fatal addiction.

“Deflection” also can keep families intact by avoiding arrest and incarceration. PTACC has said that there are an estimated 80,000 grandparents in Pennsylvania raising children who have been removed from homes due to parental drug use.

For police and courts, deflection can help address the root cause of repeated, low-level offenses without diverting resources from bigger cases. The LETI program also helps strengthen the relationships between police and communities. Officers can be seen as a source of help rather than punishment. And by focusing more on the treatment rather than any potential crime, law enforcement can help end the stigma associated with substance abuse.

Despite perception, the opioid crisis isn’t limited to back-alley dealers or street pills. The super-strong painkillers like fentanyl can be used to lace illicit drugs, yes. But they are available through prescriptions. Anyone can get hooked. A struggling teenager trying to cope. A forgetful senior who took the wrong dosage. Someone who accidentally takes the wrong stuff in a cluttered medicine cabinet.

It doesn’t matter how someone ended up with a substance use disorder — addiction is a disease of the mind, not a crime in itself. We’re all human and deserve a chance to live. No one who needs help should be deterred from seeking it because they’re worried about a negative perception. Eliminating that stigma eliminates a barrier to treatment.

Testimonials on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website tout the benefits and successes of LETI. CMP Executive Director Jamie Drake said the collaboration between treatment agencies and the criminal justice system increases access to help for “our most vulnerable clients.” Carbon County District Attorney Mike Greek said the program is “a valuable tool … to break the cycle of addiction.” Monroe County First Assistant District Attorney Mike Mancuso said LETI encourages addicts “to obtain treatment instead of taking their chances in the court system,” reducing crime rates and associated costs: “Our community will benefit across the board.”

When Carbon joined the program in 2019, 15 Pennsylvanians were dying each day from heroin and fentanyl. CMP representatives at the time said that when someone makes the decision to seek aid, that aid needs to be available immediately. Any delay, even by a couple of days, could be the difference between a life in recovery and a deadly overdose.

“This crisis knows no municipal bounds,” Shapiro noted at the time, per the Times News. “Black, white, brown; rich, poor; male, female; rural, suburban; it doesn’t matter, it touches everyone.”

By expanding the opportunities to find treatment through LETI, perhaps the solution can be just as pervasive.


The fight against fentanyl starts with awareness. National Fentanyl Awareness Day 2024 is May 7.

The day presents an opportunity for everyone in the community — parents, teachers, corporations, influencers, government, and others — to learn about the dangers, start conversations, seek help, and prevent further tragedy.

Fight Fentanyl

Fentanyl Poisoning Stops Here.

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