According to Time magazine, the United States has seen heroin use increase 63% in the past 11 years. This alarming trend, coupled with the general rise of drug addiction, has created an unprecedented epidemic that requires innovative and progressive thinking. The majority of the population has witnessed the ineffectiveness of the previous decades’ harsh and draconian practices of long-term imprisonment and stigmatization. This realization has been brought by nearly every American having direct experience with addiction. Whether it is a family member, loved one, friend, neighbor, or coworker, people are seeing it in the faces of people we know, love, and respect.
With that in mind, a new program is being implemented in Illinois, where the heroin epidemic has taken a large toll. This program allows for an addict to call the police and simply ask for help. Instead of fearing arrest of persecution, the person will be offered to be fast tracked into treatment, where wait times can, otherwise, be staggering.
The Lee County Safe Passage Initiative is gaining a great deal of attention, where not only do the police offer assistance getting the addict into treatment, but they will dispose of all the drugs and paraphernalia without pressing any charges.
With the saying, “it take a village…” in mind, those seeking help are not only offered treatment and the ability to dispose of contraband with impunity, they are also offered continued support. This support comes in the form of volunteers, many of whom are recovering themselves, and these volunteers will offer transportation, assistance with applications and paperwork, and will generally act as a liaison for the individual in treatment and the program.
HOPE, NOT HATRED
With any luck, this program will prove successful and can change the paradigm of how law enforcement and addicts needing help interact. Given the widespread problem of addiction, law enforcement, politicians and communities are looking at numerous options. With any hope, America will see more programs like Safe Passage and less like this proposition. What do you think? Can American shift it’s attitude toward addiction? Can a more sensitive, empathetic, and compassionate attitude from law enforcement improve public relations? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter.
November 10, 2015 / Ryan Serey