Sheriff says “A Way Out” opioid addiction program is possible in county

KSN News.

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Imagine if there was a way to contact law enforcement for a way out of your opioid addiction, without any penalties?

It’s an idea the Sedgwick County Sheriff is trying to bring to the community.

Sheriff Jeff Easter says he heard about the plan called “A Way Out” when attending a meeting several months ago on the opioid epidemic.

It’s in motion in a suburb outside Chicago and he says so far, it’s showing positive results.

Dialing 911 is a call that can change an opioid addict’s life in Lake County, Illinois.

“If they had the narcotic on them, it was pretty much a free pass, they would not charge them with that particular crime,” said Sheriff Jeff Easter, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.

An officer or deputy meets the caller and instead of going to jail, he or she is transported to the local health department for assessment. It’s a new opportunity for addicts to find “A Way Out” of using opioids, and Sheriff Easter says it’s working.

“Its been successful for them to get them into the program, and they haven’t seen any recidivism out of them,” said Easter.

These results are why Easter is trying to start the program in Sedgwick County where he says, there’s a rise in opioid abuse.

He says residents are becoming addicted to prescription pills and more deadly opioids.

“When that’s recognized, they’re cut off the pain medications, now they’re turning to heroin and we’re seeing a lot more overdoses,” said Easter.

Easter says the program could possibly help free up jail space because people arrested for property crimes, are often addicted to substances.

“Putting them in jail, which most won’t get prison time so they’re right back out, hasn’t been the solution for several years,” said Easter.

Easter hopes “A Way Out” could be a change that stops the revolving door for many addicts and a long-term plan to stop the opioid epidemic from coming here.

“We have to think about these things in a different context and try some different avenues to resolve some of the ills of society that we’re seeing,” said Easter.

For it to work in the county, Easter says the plan would have to be agreed on by the district attorney’s office, Wichita Police, the administrative judge, and treatment facilities in the county.