EDITORIAL: How suburban police departments are wising up about drug abuse

SHARE EDITORIAL: How suburban police departments are wising up about drug abuse

Heroin seized by the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad during a 2010 bust in Bolingbrook. | Submitted by MANS.

The best time to help drug addicts is when they reach out for help.

So, at a time when America is struggling with spiking rates of deadly drug abuse, we’d like to call attention to a new and more compassionate approach to the problem that is being tried in Lake and Kane counties. Addicts are being encouraged to walk into the nearest participating police station to seek help, without fear of being charged with a crime.

The cops will even take and dispose of whatever drugs the person might be holding, no questions asked.


Many drug abusers never seek help because they simply don’t know where to turn. Or they fear they will be drug-tested and arrested. Or they don’t know how they would pay for rehab.

But everyone knows where the closest police station is.

North suburban Lake County launched the program in 2016, and a third of all police departments now participate. Kane County will launch its own program this year.

Police departments work out arrangements with drug treatment providers in advance to ensure care is available around the clock. They then drive addicts seeking help to the front door of a treatment facility and ensure in advance that insurance questions or the ability to pay are not obstacles.

Police in Lake County have placed 516 people into treatment since June 1, 2016, said Mundelein Police Chief Eric J. Guenther, who hopes that the program will continue to expand across the county.

“It’s far exceeding where people thought we would be at,” Guenther said.

Communities in the program , he said, also have seen a decline in the number of retail thefts, burglaries to motor vehicles and domestic violence — all crimes that often revolve around substance abuse.

“The police have been very effective in taking clients when they are ready,” Pamela Rodriguez, president and CEO of Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities, told us. “Law enforcement [has] been very instrumental in increasing treatment.”

According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of teens and children dying from opioid overdoses has tripled in the past 20 years.

Putting addicts in jail has not worked. And it never will.

Countering addiction with treatment instead of jail time could save thousands of lives.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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