The city is expanding a program that works to keep people from getting a drug offense and, instead, places them into treatment.
The Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program, started in 2018 on the West Side, and has directed more than 700 people in 11 eligible police districts toward drug treatment programs.
Officials say the program will expand to every district by the end of the year.
There are two ways someone can access the NADP, Chicago Police Deputy Chief Antoinette Ursitti said. If an officer takes an individual into custody who’s in possession of one gram or less of cocaine, heroin or drug paraphernalia and if they’re open to treatment, a counselor at the station will connect them with a treatment program. Otherwise, people can come to the station to request access to the program.
Thresholds is an organization that provides services and resources for persons with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders in Illinois.
When someone meets with a Thresholds counselor, they talk about different treatment options, said Tim Devitt, associate vice president of clinical operations at Thresholds. The counselors also go beyond treatment options, like offering help with housing or education on naloxone, an opioid overdose reverser.
“We’re really basing it on what the person needs and where the best fit is for where they’re at, substance abuse issues and everything else that’s going on as well,” Devitt said.
However, there are “disqualifiers” for access. For example, the person cannot have a felony conviction for a violent crime or have been convicted of illegal possession of a firearm.
Ursitti, who works with the department’s Crisis Intervention Unit, said these restrictions on eligibility might be creating a gap in arrests being diverted. She explained that the program has changed eligibility requirements in the past and that they’ve been working with partners to find ways to expand eligibility as well.