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Nick Cocchi has been speaking to hundreds of High School and Middle School students at the invitation of school principals, counselors and teachers about avoiding the dangers of drugs. Cocchi quietly began the effort and practice years before his candidacy for Sheriff of Hampden County, and now, in his capacity as Assistant Superintendent of The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.


“Reaching out to young people, students, talking to them frankly about making the right choices in life, has always been a vibrant part of The Hampden County Sherriff’s Department’s effort at preventive intervention. It is and has been, part of our preventative efforts to get involved early so we don’t have to help these adolescents later in life, as residents of The Hampden County Addiction Center, or worse for them and the tax-payer, as residents of the Hampden County Jails,” said Cocchi.


“Some candidates at the recent Sheriff’s debate said that they would begin to “go into the schools” if elected Sheriff. They did not know that we have been involved in schools County-wide, and not just me, but Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr. and so many members of our Department. Many of the correctional professional’s and counselors I work with have asked me to correct this misperception from being spread further,” said Cocchi.


“I respect other candidates opinions, but the facts are the facts. We’ve been doing this early intervention for decades. And not always on the clock, but at events and gatherings outside of our work schedules. We’ve always known that early engagement is essential, for these impressionable young lives," said Cocchi.


“Being Sheriff is not about saying things that sound good at election-time, but by knowing what it takes to do the job and having new ideas and plans that are good and sound. The men and women I work with every day spend more time doing the hard and essential work of the profession than heralding the work we do. Perhaps that is the difference between correctional professionals vs. politicians seeking to serve in the role of Sheriff,” said Cocchi.

 “If I earn the right to serve as our next Sheriff, I commit that I will continue to personally visit every High School, Middle School, every Elementary School in Hampden County that will allow us to do so. I want to continue our efforts at early intervention and guidance. This is so important that I will do this myself as Sheriff, bringing our experts, counselors and people who are examples of our program’s success along with me. It’s important for us to hear from these young people and to know first-hand what they are dealing with at home and in their neighborhoods,” said Cocchi.


Cocchi has visited classrooms in his official capacity and separately on his own time, as well with the Department’s Residents Offering Alternative Resources Program (ROAR). Cocchi, along with other staff, have been bringing residents of The Hampden County Addition Center to share their personal stories of the challenges of addiction, and how they are planning to succeed in moving forward in life via the programs of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.


Thursday, Cocchi addressed students at Pope Francis High School (Cathedral), bringing with him Counselor Mike Harrigan. They were joined by 3 residents fighting addiction from the Western Massachusetts Addiction Center. He also has spoken at Holyoke Community Charter School, Minnechaug HS, Elms College, as well as numerous Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTO). Cocchi is addressing students today, Friday, at West Springfield High School and Chicopee High School.


“We want these young people to know that there are others in their own community or in communities like theirs, who are beating addiction. It’s one thing to hear from me in my position, about the need to fight the fight, but hearing it from their peers who can warn them of staying away from this danger, from the bad influences encouraging them to try drugs and certainly from the bad element that illegally pushes the road to addiction, is some of the best preventative medicine we can use in this fight,” said Cocchi.


“Two years ago, I was invited to speak at Springfield’s Central High School. I was so impressed by the young people I spoke to, by the sincerity of their teachers, counselors and principal.  And more, by how they engaged me on the challenges they face every day. I left there with ideas that I brought back to The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. I spoke at Central again this year and left even more energized by the students desire to help others avoid the danger of drugs,” said Cocchi.


“My announcement earlier this week about my efforts to ensure that we have the treatment beds necessary for recovering addicts, in-part, came from these young people and their parents, opening up to me about the hardships on their family and friend’s families, when the need for treatment has taken them far from home for open treatment beds. These amazing young students know that we need to get those afflicted into treatment, before they are remanded by the criminal justice system over to the care and custody of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department Addiction Center,” said Cocchi.