Program tackling drug problem in Lee County, Ill. marks a milestone


DIXON, Ill. (KWQC) – Law enforcement and health officials in Lee County, Illinois are celebrating a milestone for a program that aims to address a dangerous drug problem. The Safe Passage initiative gets addicts the help they need without the fear of going to jail. People suffering from addiction can go to the police or sheriff’s department and turn in their drugs before being directly placed into a treatment facility.

Many involved are calling it a success so far, but say there’s plenty still to do. Safe Passage began a year ago this September and in that time more than 100 people have been placed into treatment. It all started as a product of the community coming together after a rash of overdose deaths in early 2015. Now, many involved are being recognized for the difference that’s been made over the last year.

“To do that and have that kind of success there’s so many people that come into that team. Volunteers to treatment centers and different leaders in the community,” said Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss.

Langloss says there’s a noticeable reduction in the county jail population by about 10 people a month. The program also has a 65% success rate.

Recovering addict Alyssa Irvin knows about that first hand. She says she’d probably be dead or at least back on drugs if not for Safe Passage.

“I truly appreciate everything and highly recommend this program,” said Irvin.

It’s the increased access to treatment through a lot of coordination that makes all the difference. One goal is to improve in the transition from in-patient care to out-patient.

“We need to wrap somebody in services so when they get out they aren’t put in the same environment that they came from and hopefully reduce the chances of relapse,” said Cathy Ferguson, Administrator of the Lee County Health Department.

Plus, police officials in Lee County continue to push for help on the state and federal level while also reaching out to other communities in hopes of leading by example.

“We’re working with 40 different police departments across Illinois and Iowa trying to create programs just like this,” added Chief Langloss.

The Lee County Safe Passage was only the second program of its kind in the country when it started. The first was in Massachusetts. Now, there are more than 140 in 25 states across the country. Grant money covers transportation costs to get addicts to different treatment centers in the region. Safe Passage coordinators are hoping federal funding will become available soon.

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