Heroin addicts who want to get to rehab and avoid jail will be able to show up at the Jeffersontown Police Department to get the help they need. Getting the addicts off the streets, and not putting them in jail, is the goal of an innovative program starting in Jeffersontown August 1.
Mayor Bill Dieruf announced the new initiative at a press conference, along with Chief Ken Hatmaker and Sgt. Brittney Garrett.
“Jtown started the HERT (Heroin Emergency Response Team) project to come up with an innovative way to help people with addictions,” he said. “We’re not just talking about it, but we want to do something in an innovative way that hasn’t been done before. We realize what we’re doing now is helping but not actually taking us to a solution to the problem.
“Today we’re announcing a program that’s been going on in Boston since last June. It’s called the Angel Program. A person with an opioid addiction can walk in the police department and they will make sure they have a place to go and heal from the addiction.”
Many involved in the fight against heroin refer to the problem as an epidemic. The Mayor announced more than three dozen organizations, including police departments, judges, criminal justice workers, educational institutions and addiction counseling centers, have joined HERT.
Earlier today, Metro Louisville corrections chief Mark Bolton announced that because of overcrowding at the downtown jail with more than 2,000 inmates, the city will open new prison space. Much of the overcrowding can be attributed to the heroin epidemic.
In Gloucester, Mass., there has been a 33 percent reduction in property crimes and 426 people are now in treatment in their Angel program. Jeffersontown officials have studied that program, and also partnering with the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which is active with 300 treatment centers in 30 states. This will be the first in Kentucky.
“Let me tell you about buy-in with that. If I’m a resident and a taxpayer, and there is a 33 percent reduction in crime in my neighborhood, I’m all for it,” said Hatmaker. “For dealers, we’re not only going to take your drugs and your money and your cars and your home and your freedom, but now we’re going to take the things that starts all of it, the folks that want drugs, one at a time, this is slow, but we’re going to take them off the street.”
Jeffersontown will host a Community Conversation about this issue April 26 at 7 p.m. at the city’s Community Center.