New drug program is essentially amnesty for heroin addicts

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Last week showed just how bad the heroin problem is in Chicago, when dozens of users overdosed and almost died due to a bad batch of the deadly drug.

But now, a surprising new program is aimed at tackling heroin addiction.

In Chicago, drug deals happen in broad daylight near busy intersections. The buyers are often from the suburbs.

“A week ago, Chicago had twenty to thirty overdoses. Those were suburban people going into the city and buying and bringing it back to the suburbs,” said Rolling Meadows Police Commander Tom Gadomski.

Now, for drug addicts in Rolling Meadows, police are trying a new tactic.

“If you simply walk into our police station, and you're a rolling meadows resident, and you say, ‘I'm suffering from this horrible addiction, I have nowhere else to turn, I need help,’ We're going to help you,” Gadomski said.

It's essentially an amnesty program for heroin addicts and is patterned after a first-of-its-kind program in  Gloucester, Massachusetts, called the ‘Angel Program.’

Addicts who turn themselves in won't be arrested or charged with crimes. They'll be referred to Therapeutic Interventions, which is a Rolling Meadows treatment center.

“There are so many people dying now from this addiction, and being given the opportunity to try to help them is, it's wonderful,” said program director Deborah Budzik.

“I think I would have tried that. I would have been open minded to it,” said Kathie Kane-Willis of Roosevelt University.

Kane-Willis was once a heroin user herself. Now, she's a researcher at Roosevelt University focusing on the impact of heroin addiction in Illinois.

“What we know from the research is the way to reduce heroin use is to provide treatment to people, and so any way we can provide treatment is going to be helpful,” Kane-Willis said.

The cost of the new program, including methadone treatments and counseling, will be covered with dollars seized from drug dealers.

So far, the town of Dixon is the only other community in Illinois that's establishing a similar program for heroin addicts.