Rock Island County starts Safe Passage Program

ROCK ISLAND COUNTY-- People hit hard by the opioids epidemic can now go to their local police department in Rock Island County to seek treatment.

Rock Island County Sheriff Gerald Bustos officially introduced the Safe Passage program during a press conference January 30, 2018.

"The best way we're going to be able to serve our public is to get the people who are addicted (to opioids) treatment, rather than in handcuffs," says Sheriff Bustos.

The number of opioid related deaths in Rock Island County jumped from six in 2016 to 21 in 2017.

Bustos says people seeking treatment through the program will not be charged if they are carrying drugs, unless they have an existing arrest warrant. Instead they will be asked to turn in their drugs to the police.

An officer will then enroll the patient into a treatment facility in Illinois.

"We have partnered with UnityPoint Health Robert Young Center in Rock Island, Rosecrance in  Rockford, Illinois and the Gateway Foundation which has centers in Aurora, Chicago... and Springfield," says Rock Island County Sgt. Janet McBride.

Currently, the program has 12 volunteers to transport patients to a treatment center.

Safe Passage programs already exist in Lee and Whiteside Counties.

Lee County Sheriff, John Simonton says since its rollout in 2015 at least 200 people took advantage of the program.

Anyone interested in volunteering in the Rock Island County Safe Passage program should contact their local police department.