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Police Are Giving Heroin Addicts Help, Not Jail Time, In The Suburbs

By Kate Shepherd in News on Oct 9, 2015 6:22PM

bags of heroin, via Getty Images

Heroin abuse is on the rise, and a suburban police department is taking a stand by helping addicts instead of locking them up.

"If you come into the station with your drugs or paraphernalia, we will not arrest you," Rolling Meadows Police Chief David Scanlan said in a statement. "Instead we will help you. I want you in a treatment program, not in a jail cell."

Scanlan launched the Second Chance amnesty and treatment program after bad batches of heroin caused a deluge of overdoses in the city and suburbs last week.

"I don't want a resident of this city who is addicted to heroin in my jail cell," he said in the statement. "It doesn't help anyone. If they are serious about beating this horrible addiction then I encourage them to walk into our police station. Let us help you, it won't cost you a dime and it will save your life."

Any addict who wants help can come to the station and meet with an officer. They will be entered in a local heroin intervention and treatment program free of cost. The rehab program will be paid for by the department with money seized from drug dealers.

"This isn't about getting PR," Rolling Meadows Police Commander Tom Gadowski told CBS. "We're not looking for that at all. This is about saving lives."

Treating addiction as a disease instead of a crime is a strategy other police departments are trying. The Gloucester, Mass. police department launched a similar program this spring following dozens of overdoses in town and a community forum, according to

"The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money," Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said in a statement in May. "Petty reasons to lose a life."

Police in Scarborough, Maine launched a treatment program in September modeled after Gloucester's and it's already been a success, according to the Portland Press Herald.

"I think it's been fantastic," Scarborough police chief Robert Moulton told the Press-Herald on Oct. 2. "We had three we helped yesterday and two today."