Opioid addicts can now walk into the Schererville Police Department and get into drug treatment.

After seeing the devastating effects opioid abuse has had on the community, the department partnered with Heartland Recovery Center of Lowell on the new initiative.

"We all understand the opioid epidemic has gotten so bad that this isn't a problem we can arrest our way out of," said Schererville Police Chief David Dowling. "The goal is to reach people before the addiction leads them down the path of committing criminal acts in our community."

The United States is facing an opioid overdose epidemic that takes the lives of an estimated 91 Americans every day. In Northwest Indiana, Lake and Porter counties both had record number of heroin deaths in 2016 (63 and 20, respectively). Three of those deaths, as well as five non-fatal heroin overdoses, happened in Schererville.

However, addicts and their families often have trouble finding treatment in the Region. The Schererville Police Department already receives a few calls a month from people looking to get drug rehab.

Some Schererville police officers were recently at a training where they learned about an initiative on the East Coast where police agencies were teaming up with treatment centers. LaPorte County law enforcement agencies have a similar program in which addicts can walk in and volunteers will assist them in finding treatment.

At a heroin addiction program at Lake Central High School in October, Schererville police officials met representatives of Heartland Recovery Center, which offers partial-hospitalization drug rehabilitation. They got to talking and eventually agreed to partner on the new program.

Now if an addict, regardless of insurance or financial status, comes into or calls the Schererville Police Department asking for help, an officer will contact Heartland Recovery Center and coordinate drug treatment.

Police officials note that this isn't a diversion program for people already arrested. The point is to prevent future law enforcement interactions — or worse.

"Here if they have an addiction they can come in and get some help or some type of guidance before they get arrested or overdose," said Detective Cpl. Jeff Cook.

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