North American drug policies and funding priorities limit the availability of evidence-based interventions for problematic drug use, contributing to high rates of substance use disorder and overdose. Police and the criminal justice system are expected to use arrest as the primary deterrent for drug use, a tactic that has strained both community health and safety, while too many elected officials have deprioritized preventative, harm reduction, and health-based treatment options.
Police leaders in the US and Canada have found ways to work within legal, logistical, and cultural boundaries to contribute effective holistic solutions for addressing drug use. Speakers on this panel will emphasize an unmet demand for forward-thinking law enforcement interventions that treat drug use as a health issue, not a criminal problem. Their discussion will center on personal experiences developing, expanding upon, and supporting vital programs that fill critical gaps in North American social infrastructure. Together, these officers have a range of expertise with Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, crisis response teams, community coalitions, overdose prevention centers (aka supervised use sites), and much more.
Speakers will share the scope of their contributions to the overlapping disciplines of public health and safety for people who use drugs, lessons learned, and visions for the future of their departments as well as their countries’ overall approaches to drug use.
Mikayla Hellwich’s work as a public policy and community health advocate began in 2010 at the University of Maryland’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. She served SSDP as a chapter leader, alumni association president, mentor, conference presenter, and career coach. She is a recipient of their Outstanding Alumnus in Service to SSDP Award (2017). She is a certified peer drug educator by SSDP’s Just Say Know program. She received a harm reduction and overdose prevention professional development certificate from the Indiana University School of Public Health and is certified in mental health first aid by the National Council for Behavioral Health. Mikayla joined the Law Enforcement Action Partnership Staff in 2014. Today, she oversees LEAP’s activities and presence in the media as the Speakers Bureau & Media Relations Director. She manages virtual and in-person speaking engagements, conference participation, legislative testimonies, op-eds and letters to the editor, media interviews, and social media. She contributes to LEAP’s messaging strategy and has trained dozens of public speakers on how to use the right language to grow support for drug policy, criminal justice, and police reform. Outside her time at LEAP, she is a drug educator and facilitates harm reduction and overdose prevention workshops. In 2020, she formalized this work by founding Drug Education Consulting, LLC, which provides trauma-informed behavioral health education and coaching for people who use drugs and their communities. Mikayla lives in the Washington, DC-Area.