LAPORTE — LaPorte County residents addicted to illegal drugs soon will be allowed to get help for their addictions at very little, if any, cost, and without the threat of going to jail.
The budding effort has the support of local law enforcement officials who’ve come to realize “we’re not going to arrest our way out of this,” said Harlan Williams, commander of the LaPorte Metro Operations Unit.
Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative was just developed last year in Massachusetts, and LaPorte County is positioned to be first to implement it in Indiana.
PAARI allows people not currently charged with a crime to walk into a police station and seek help for substance abuse.
They will not be arrested or interrogated.
Instead, a volunteer with the program will start the process of lining up treatment and getting the person enrolled into Medicaid or some other assistance program for help in covering the expenses.
Williams said cost is what keeps many users from seeking treatment.
LaPorte and Michigan City police along with the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department are among the agencies taking part.
Spearheading the effort was LaPorte Superior Court 4 Judge Greta Friedman, who heard about PAARI and thought it would be an effective tool here.
LaPorte Police Chief Adam Klimczak said work on starting the program began about a month ago.
Next week, all of the major players involved will meet to finalize the details “so we can get started shortly after that,” Klimczak said.
Efforts are underway to secure up to 30 volunteers known as “Angels,” who will lead the people coming forward through all of the steps involved for receiving treatment.
“I don’t think we’re going to have hundreds and hundreds of people beating down our doors, but I think we’re going to have success because there are people out there struggling that may not know what to do,” Klimczak said.
This is another of the many tools used the past few years to try to reduce a major problem, especially with heroin and abuse of opiate-based prescription pain killers, in the LaPorte area.
The opening of an outpatient heroin treatment center in LaPorte’s downtown and the creation of a drug court that focuses more on defendants receiving treatment are among the recent initiatives.
“We have to be attacking this problem from more than one standpoint. It cannot only be a law enforcement issue,” Williams said.