LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Some police in the metro are welcoming drug dealers and users into the station with open arms instead of handcuffs.
The Lee’s Summit Police Department has launched the Safe Passage Program to tackle drug use on the front end.
You can literally walk right through the front doors of the Lee’s Summit Police Department off N.E. Tudor Road and N.E. Douglas Street with drugs, pipes, needles -- all of it. Thanks to the Safe Passage Program, the officers are more concerned about your well-being than your warrant.
“I have worked with people that have chosen their drug addiction over their own children, and as a parent, I can’t understand what would be so strong," said Sgt. Brad Anders, who helped develop the program.
"There’s something more to it than it’s just a choice. If something has a hold of you to the point that you’re picking this over your family, as a human being, that’s something I want to do to be able to help that."
In the last five years, LSPD has seen a 40% increase in opioid-related calls, among other types of substance abuse. Instead of taking the same people to jail over and over, the department is offering the change for change.
"The people will come into the police department here. We’ll fill out a screening form, and we will transport them directly to KCATC," Anders said. "At that point, they will bring them in and work on getting them a prolonged treatment program at that point."
The Kansas City Assessment and Triage Center, ReDiscover, First Call KC -- they’ve worked to open beds for drug users who go to police and say, “Look, I need help now.”
“They’re welcome to come in here any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Anders said. "And just come in and say, ‘Hey, I need some help with the Safe Passage Program.”
The cops realize having warrants or a criminal past, or even something illegal on them right then, could deter someone from coming in.
“This is something that we’re going to have to work together on," Anders said. "There can’t be any threat of criminal charges for you coming in through the front doors and saying, ‘Hey, I need help with this.’”
It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card for existing charges or to protect you if you murder, rape, rob or kidnap someone.
“For some of these lesser crimes, your drug-related crimes, things like that, things that we can actually work with, we would take your well-being over the warrant any day," Anders said.
LSPD is working with prosecutors; federal, state, and local agencies; as well as with local schools, medical personnel, and mental health specialists. This is a community effort attacking a root cause.
“The drug crime correlation impacts everyone in the community," Anders said. "[This program] brings a lot of hope. The feeling is fantastic that this may be something that we can actually do something to help somebody in that situation."
The Safe Passage Program is modeled after something similar in Massachusetts called the ANGEL Program.
The best part for some might be that there is no cost. Since the program launched in Lee’s Summit on Aug. 1, three people have taken advantage of the program to get help.