LAKE COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) --As Lake County officials battle a growing heroin epidemic, they are attempting to tackle both supply and demand. Beginning Wednesday, there is an offer of refuge for those ready to get treatment from an unlikely source: the police.
Those with addiction issues typically avoid police interaction, but now Lake County police stations may be salvation for those trying to get clean.
"There's no need to fear any arrest. If you have drugs or paraphernalia on you, we will take it from you and get you the help you need," says Chief Eric Guenther, Mundelein Police Department.
"It will not just make our community better; it's the right thing to do," says Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim.
The new program is called "A Way Out." Lake County officials produced a video to introduce it, showing an example of an addict coming into a police station and getting support instead of a criminal arrest.
Kevin Kaminski played the addict in the video, and it was a role that resonated personally. For years he was using heroin and getting arrested. He says he even tried to get help but was turned away.
"That's just discouraging, especially to a heroin addict who is trying anything they can to quit using," Kaminski says.
Kaminski is now clean and helping to craft A Way Out. He says the program offers an addict a better chance at recovery because they will get support immediately.
"Nobody is going to be stuck waiting six or eight weeks," he says.
The Franco family, of Mundelein, also support the program and will share the information with other families of addicts; their 26-year-old grandson Gabriel died from a heroin overdose.
"I believe my grandson would be alive today if he'd had something like this," says Francisco Franco.
"We are here to remember him and do this in his honor, because he was a good man," says Loni Franco.
A Way Out is based on a program from Gloucester, Mass., which has already seen a reduction in addiction-related crime.