Under New Program Addicts Get Treatment, Not Arrest, From Lee County Police


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (R-IL) met with Lee County law enforcement to learn more about the Safe Passage Initiative: Police Giving Hope to Addicts Through Tools for Recovery, a program that encourages addicts to seek the help of police officers, who in turn will get them into treatment. 

“It is a hopeful approach … and one that I believe has potential,” said Durbin, of the program. The program has helped 27 people since its launch in September.

“It’s amazing, because early on we didn’t just know what to expect obviously when you start a program like this,” says Lee County Sheriff John Simonton.

Under Safe Passage, officers who come across addicts help them get into treatment rather than putting them behind bars. 

And it’s this type of program that Allison White wished she had. A recovering addict, Allison started using heroin at age 14, and now volunteers for Safe Passage. “I definitely think, if there was a program back then like this, I would have been able to access treatment far sooner that I did. And I wouldn’t have had to go to certain lengths that I went to,” she says.

All Lee County first responders also carry the heroin antidote Narcan, and will soon be putting it in schools.

Durbin says it shows that even rural areas are at risk. “There’s no town too small, no suburb too wealthy, not to be touched by this heroin epidemic. And sadly, some of the most amazing young people in our communities are becoming addicted, and dying in the process,” says Durbin.

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