DIXON – The Safe Passage Initiative is aiming to land a $75,000 grant to increase its staff and outreach with continuing efforts to put heroin and opioid addicts into recovery rather than behind bars.
Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss said the grant, administered by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, would pay for five part-time employees – a program coordinator and four recovery coaches.
The positions would be focused on providing support and keeping better track of participants post-rehab.
"Right now, we’re doing a great job of getting people into treatment immediately, but we don’t have the staff to keep up with case management and give the additional help and support they need," he said.
The grant recipients will be announced Aug. 1.
The Safe Passage program is the second of its kind in the nation and has put 165 addicts into treatment since launching in Lee County on Sept. 1, 2015. About 40 of those are from Whiteside County, which joined the program March 1, 2016, and roughly 30 have come from Ogle, Bureau, DeKalb and Stephenson counties, Langloss said.
Having more staff to identify who's struggling and offer more help is only one part of the program's future goals.
The hope is to expand the Safe Passage umbrella into neighboring counties and create more avenues for recovering addicts to stay sober.
"We're also looking to help provide more of a connection to housing and employment," Langloss said.
Similar programs are popping up across the country to combat the growing heroin epidemic.
More than 100 overdose incidents were reported in Lee and Whiteside counties in the past 5 years, including 37 deaths tied to heroin and opioid pain medications, he said.
From 2014 to 2016, CGH Medical Center saw a nearly 76 percent increase in substance abuse cases going through the emergency room. The 146 cases last year cost the hospital about $755,000.
KSB Hospital has averaged 136 substance abuse cases in the same time frame, with 2016 expenses upward of $1.76 million.
Putting addicts into treatment is an option far cheaper and more effective at preventing recidivism than locking them up, Langloss said.
About 134 of the participants average seven arrests per person.
Between 2015 and 2016, the collective number of misdemeanor and felony drug user arrests decreased by 39 percent, and the number of misdemeanor and felony prosecutions dropped by 31 percent.
"The program is touching and changing so many people’s lives."
HOW TO GET HELP
Under the Safe Passage Initiative, addicts can seek help by contacting Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-288-4411, Lee County Sheriff John Simonton at 815-284-6631, Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi at 815-772-4044, Rock Falls Police Chief Tammy Nelson at 815-622-1140, Sterling Police Chief Tim Morgan at 815-632-6640 or any Lee or Whiteside County law enforcement agency.