Rock Island County cops launch new counter to opioid crisis
Rock Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Janice McBride speaks Tuesday during a news conference to announce the new Safe Passage program at the Rock Island County Justice Center, Rock Island. The program is designed to combat the growing heroin and opioid problem. It will help users find treatment instead of placing them under arrest. Also pictured, from left, Lt. Jon DeLoose, Rock Island Co. Sheriff’s Dept.; Lt. Dan Knittle, Rock Island Police; Mary Petersen, the CEO of Robert Young Center; Gerry Bustos, Rock Island County Sheriff; and Chief Jeffrey VenHuizen, Rock Island Police.
Rock Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Janice McBride speaks Tuesday during a news conference to announce the new Safe Passage program at the Rock Island County Justice Center, Rock Island. The program is designed to combat the growing heroin and opioid problem. It will help users find treatment instead of placing them under arrest. Also pictured, from left, Lt. Jon DeLoose, Rock Island Co. Sheriff’s Dept.; Lt. Dan Knittle, Rock Island Police; Mary Petersen, the CEO of Robert Young Center; Gerry Bustos, Rock Island County Sheriff; and Chief Jeffrey VenHuizen, Rock Island Police. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prescription painkillers, including OxyContin and Vicodin; illegal heroin; and a synthetic drug called fentanyl that is sold both legally and illegally, all fall into the opioid category.
The CDC has described the problem as an epidemic and said nearly half of fatal opioid overdoses involved prescription drugs.
Through the Safe Passage program, based on the one started by the Dixon (Illinois) Police Department, people can come to a police department or the sheriff’s office to get help with an opioid problem, officials said Tuesday during a news conference announcing the program’s opening. The officers or deputies will not arrest them, and they will not face prosecution. They can turn in their drugs and drug paraphernalia and it will be destroyed. Police agencies participating include those from Rock Island, Moline, East Moline, Silvis and Milan.
“What you see here today in front of you is a collaborative effort,” Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said at the news conference.
In Illinois, there have been 11,000 people who have died from opioid abuse since 2008, and 64 such deaths in Rock Island County since 2011, said East Moline Police Department Chief John Reynolds. Of the latter, there were 21 deaths in 2017. The first opioid related death of 2018 was Monday.
Silvis Police Department Chief Mark Van Klaveren said opioid abuse can be found across the demographic spectrum.
“This isn’t a poor problem,” Chief Van Klaveren said. “This isn’t a rich problem.”
Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office Sgt.
The program’s medical participants includes the Robert Young Center, but to meet potential demand, the program will also make use of other facilities in nearby areas, including Rockford, Sheriff Bustos said.
If space is available in such a facility, people seeking help can be connected with a group of volunteers who will transport them, Sgt. McBride said. If there is not space, they will be provided with a list of local outpatient programs where they can continue to look for help.
The initial cadre of volunteers is from Edgewood Baptist Church, Rock Island, Sheriff Bustos said.
The initial processing will include filling out information a treatment facility might need, including name and other biographical information; drug history; and whether an applicant has been in treatment before, Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jon DeLoose said. As a precaution, they will be searched. If there are signs of withdrawal, its onset, or another medical issue, arrangements can be made for hospitalization.
If someone seeking treatment has an outstanding warrant, then they will be told to take care of it first, Sgt. McBride said. The program will follow up with them after the warrant has been handled.
Sheriff Bustos said the program is using money the county is receiving from from drug fines for funding. This money is largely being used to help the volunteers who will be working with people who enroll in the program.
The costs involved on the law enforcement side are being absorbed by department budgets because the intake and other roles their employees perform are going to be part of their day to day job, Chief Reynolds. said.
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee said that his office endorsed the program and, to help support it, is also providing funds from forfeitures related to drug cases.
The county is already using other programs meant to combat drug use while trying to keep users out of jail, Mr. McGehee said. These include drug court and first offense probation.
Many of the existing alternative programs are for people who are already facing a charge, the sheriff said. Safe Passage is an opportunity for people to deal with the issue before it gets that far.
“This is a way to keep people out of the criminal justice system or the morgue,” Sheriff Bustos said.
The program will be looking for more volunteers. For more information, people can contact the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office at 309 558 3402 or their police department.