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Top Obama Advisor in Roanoke to roll out new drug policies

By David Kaplan, dkaplan@wdbj7.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 10:13:05 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2014 08:06:02 PM EDT

President Obama's top drug policy advisor was in Roanoke Wednesday rolling out the administration's plan to curb the nation's drug problem.

ROANOKE, Va. -

President Obama's top drug policy advisor was in Roanoke today rolling out the administration's plan to curb the nation's drug problem.

Michael Botticelli says the approach isn't entirely new today at Blue Ridge Behavioral Health on McDowell Avenue in Roanoke.

But the announcement alone re-emphasizes what the biggest problems are, and new ways to fix them.

The new drug policy is characterized as being as much a public health initiative as a law enforcement one.

Director Boticelli says prison is no longer the way to fix the drug problem.

Instead, it's a holistic approach; one Roanoke is ahead of the curve on.

A community garden seems like an odd place to take the President's top drug advisor.

But it's the Hurt Park Community that's the big success, the big reason why Michael Botticelli is here.

"Hurt Park is a community where the sense of empowerment has switched from criminals to the people that live there and that care about their community," Police Chief Chris Perkins said at the announcement today.

The Roanoke Police Department introduced the Drug Market Intervention to Hurt Park in 2011.

In part, the system allows non-violent, first time drug offenders a second chance as an alternative to jail.

The White House loves it.

"While law enforcement will always play a pivotal role in protecting our communities from drug related violence and harm, we know that we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the drug problem," Boticelli said.

Boticelli says the new policy sets forth a standard much like the one he says Roanoke already has.

The police work closely with the mental health professionals who work closely with the jails.

U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy sees these cases on a daily basis.

He recognizes Roanoke as being on the leading edge.

"All of this requires partnership, it requires federal government to work with state and local officials, agencies, together, public health working with law enforcement," Heaphy said.

This policy comes amid a growing problem nationwide: growing use of heroin and prescription drugs, a major problem in southwest Virginia and even other parts of Roanoke.

Fortunately, those communities don't have to look too far to find out how to fix it.