Following the example of departments elsewhere, the Springfield Police Department has instituted a Safe Passage program wherein folks who’ve fallen prey to drugs or alcohol can get help by showing up at the police station or flagging any cop they see: Please, I need treatment. Gateway Foundation has committed to providing beds. Lt. Brian Oakes says police got three calls within 24 hours of announcing the program last week, and the goal is immediate help, not come back tomorrow. The program is patterned after efforts in Dixon, Bloomington, Will County, Christian County and other areas where cops have figured out that arresting addicts doesn’t work as well as helping them get off drugs. Participants can turn in paraphernalia and small amounts of drugs without fear of arrest. There are some restrictions. The program is limited to city residents who don’t have outstanding warrants or more than three drug-related convictions. Unless parents or guardians give permission, you must be at least 18. Sex offenders aren’t eligible, which Oakes acknowledges isn’t ideal: After all, the only thing worse than a sex offender is a sex offender on drugs, but ensuring safety in treatment facilities is an issue. “We’re trying to do the best we can,” Oakes says. Folks in need of help can call the police department at 788-8325 or Gateway Foundation at 529-9266. Meanwhile, Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell says he hopes to have a parallel program set up soon for county residents. Hurry up, Jack. Lives, after all, are at stake.

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