The Highland Police Department is the latest Northwest Indiana law enforcement agency to join a national initiative promising to get anyone who walks through its doors into drug treatment.

The department now is part of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, or PAARI. That program started at a Massachusetts police department, where any drug addict who asked for help was immediately brought to a hospital and placed in rehab without fear of arrest.

Highland Police Detective Brian Stanley learned about the program last year after reading a Times story about the Griffith Police Department joining the initiative.

“We understand that this is an epidemic that is plaguing our community, and that we need to become further engaged and do more to meet the challenge,” he stated.

“The goal is to proactively seek out those individuals and families that could benefit from a changed approach to let them know that we are here to help them and, just as importantly, we want to help them.”

The announcement comes amid a national epidemic of opioid overdose deaths that kills an estimated 115 Americans a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and several Region residents per month, according to county coroners in Northwest Indiana. In 2017, Highland police responded to 36 overdoses and administered the overdose reversal drug naloxone 13 times.

In Northwest Indiana, the Griffith, LaPorte, LaPorte County, Michigan City and Portage police departments also are in PAARI. The Schererville Police Department has a similar initiative in partnership with Heartland Recovery Center in Lowell.

“As law enforcement officers, we realize that we cannot arrest our way out of this opioid epidemic,” Highland police Cmdr. John Banasiak said. “We’re committed to attacking this problem in another way, and we’re grateful for PAARI and the local organizations we’ve partnered with that have made that possible.”

As part of PAARI, the Highland Police Department is offering to refer people suffering from addiction to treatment without fear of prosecution or arrest. Locally, the agency has partnered with Edgewater Health of Gary, Recovery Works of Merrillville, Heartland Recovery Center and the Big Book Legacy Group of Griffith. The department has so far referred two people to treatment.

“Recovery is a lifelong journey that begins by simply asking for help, and I am so glad that the Highland Police Department has made itself available as a resource for those ready to ask for help,” said PAARI Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade. “They have done tremendous work to build a strong recovery network in a very short period of time, and their efforts will no doubt help save lives in their community.”

This content was originally published here.