Additional Recovery Initiative To Start As Soon As January
By Shamane Mills
The Madison Police Department has received a three-year, $700,000 federal “smart policing” grant to try a new way to deal with nonviolent drug offenders who commit low-level crimes. Rather than arrest, drug users will be given a chance to get treatment.
The heroin and prescription drug epidemic is a problem both state and local law enforcement say they can’t solve through arrests alone. Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said Thursday the treatment option makes sense in many ways.
“It’s more expensive to take people to jail, it’s more stigmatizing to create records of arrest and prosecutions,” Koval said. “It doesn’t begin to touch upon the significant underlying core of what is creating these anomalies to their behaviors because of the need for the drug.” The pilot program will fund new administrators and counselors to get drug users who are picked up for low-level offenses into treatment. Still, it will not pay for more treatment beds, which has been an issue in many areas of the state. Stated goals of the program include helping to reduce the workload of the Dane County District Attorney’s Office, easing jail overcrowding and preventing arrest records that could keep a drug user from getting a job. Koval said the heroin and prescription drug epidemic has resulted in more fatal overdoses and a rise in property crimes.
“The intensity, the frequency and the fallout have created this perfect storm that we have to do something different,” he said.
Under the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative, a drug offender would not be eligible for treatment if they commit a felony or violent crime. There are similar programs around the country.
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