S.I.P. of living water changes lives

SAN DIEGO POLICE Officer John Liening (l) and Sergeant Richard Schnell (r) with S.I.P. case manager Greg Miller and Dr. Ron Hestad, ARC director of rehabilitation services.


Two uniformed police officers, Rich Schnell and John Liening, watched a recent graduation of the San Diego ARC. This was no cause for alarm, though. They were there to support one of the graduates, Richard. Previously, they had arrested the homeless alcoholic many times.

A chronic offender, Richard had been arrested and released back to the streets more times than he could remember. That was before S.I.P. ­ the Serial Inebriate Program, spearheaded by the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) to stop the cycle and get offenders into treatment and back into society as sober, healthy and productive citizens.

The SDPD knew the only services provided homeless alcoholics generally start with them. Individuals would receive short-term emergency care and a brief detox or incarceration. Back on the street, alcoholics would begin the downward spiral. Besides the devastating effect on individuals’ health, this cycle was a huge drain on public funds.

Enter The Salvation Army. S.I.P. approached the ARC a few years ago during its planning phase. “We are really grateful to The Salvation Army for the valuable resources they provide in this team effort,” said Officer Liening, who, along with Sgt. Schnell, was instrumental in founding S.I.P. “We couldn’t do this without the support of providers like the ARC.”

Last fall Richard’s life changed. Under new S.I.P. rules, he had received the maximum jail term allowed. While in jail, he was assessed and offered an option to waive jail time for treatment. Upon accepting, he was referred to the ARC.

While at the ARC, Richard was supported and encouraged by Schnell and Liening, and by Greg Miller, the program’s assessor and case manager. Their caring typifies the joint effort to both reduce crime and to provide an alternative to incarceration for chronic alcoholics.

Today, Richard is sober ­ he’s healthy and employed. Most significantly, after a lifetime of despair, he’s hopeful. “This is all about changing lives, saving lives,” said Major Doug Williams, administrator at San Diego ARC. “We’re happy to be working with S.I.P. ­ and making a difference.”

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