Rolling Meadows police offer 'Second Chance' for heroin addicts
If you are addicted to heroin and walk into the Rolling Meadows police station asking for help, instead of being arrested you will get free treatment.
That's the gist of a new program the city's police department is debuting this week in an effort to reduce crime, help addicts and their families, and try a new approach to the heroin epidemic that has been sweeping through the suburbs for years, said Police Chief Dave Scanlan.
"We have kids in town that are heavily involved with heroin. We are frustrated with dealing with them. We arrest them, we rearrest them and we rearrest them, but we don't seem to be getting anywhere," Scanlan said. "There has got to be a better way."
The effort takes a page from the Gloucester, Massachusetts police department, which has a similar program. Rolling Meadows police officers traveled to Gloucester earlier this year to observe it.
Dubbed the "Second Chance" program, the new option is only open to Rolling Meadows residents. It is made possible through a partnership with Therapeutic Interventions, a treatment facility in the city, and will be paid for with money collected through the police department's drug seizure program.
Those who ask for help will work with the department's social services coordinator and be placed into a 90-day program for free. Their drugs will be impounded and destroyed, and they will not be charged with a crime.
After years of seeing overdose deaths, Scanlan said he knew his department needed to try something new.
"We have been there for the death investigations. We have talked to the families, we have been in the homes of these kids," he said. "You go to someone's house and you have a kid laying there stiff in the corner with a heroin needle in his arm and the parents going berserk. It doesn't take too many of those to see we need a change. What the families go through is just devastating."
Scanlan also expects the program to reduce overall crime in the city.
"In a community our size, heroin addicts have a dramatic effect and can become almost a one-person crime wave," he said. "Every (addict) we take off the streets and get into a program will significantly help."
A message about the new program posted on Facebook Wednesday night has been shared or liked nearly 10,000 times. Scanlan said he is not surprised.
"Right now heroin is the problem. It's everywhere, it effects everyone," he said.
Police Cmdr. Tom Gadomski said heroin is like any other weapon harming city residents and police want to help.
"It does no good to put the addict in jail. It doesn't help their life at all. It puts them in the court system, it costs them more money to get lawyers and they are not dealing with their problem," Gadomski said. "We would rather put them right into a treatment program."
The offer for help doesn't mean the city is softening its stance on criminals, however.
"If we catch someone in a criminal act, they are going to get arrested, that's not going to change," Scanlan said. "I'm not saying we're not going to do enforcement or that we're going to stop trying to get heroin dealers and drug dealers in our community. But for those people who want to come in here and say 'Enough is enough, I need some help,' we want them to be able to do that."
Scanlan said there is a similar program in Dixon, Illinois, but he hasn't heard of any others in the suburbs.
"I think it will be a concept that catches on," Gadomski said. "We want to get one life saved. If we do that, then it's well worth it. The addict is not just hurting himself. It hurts their family and this community. They are a part of this community too, and it's our job to help you."