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Heroin, opioid addicts can turn to Appleton police for help

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Appleton Police Department LEAAP

APPLETON (WLUK) -- Police in Appleton are announcing a new initiative to fight heroin and prescription drug abuse.

It's called L.E.A.A.P., the Law Enforcement Addiction Assistance Program.

Appleton Police Officers will now be a first line of defense in fighting addiction. That's the hope behind LEAAP.

"Essentially somebody can come into the Appleton Police Department and tell us that they have an opiate addiction that they want assistance with," described Officer Sean Kuether.

An officer will immediately ask the person background questions then call in two trained volunteers to help with the next steps.

"They will help these folks navigate the complicated web of getting into treatment and navigating the different kind of treatments that are out there," Kuether explained.

Through LEAAP you can bring any drugs or paraphernalia here to the police department, the police will destroy them and you won't face any charges.

"Even if they elect not to continue or not to participate in the program after they turn it over, that doesn't change. They can still leave freely," Kuether told FOX 11 News.

Right now the program is only offered to Appleton residents.

The police department has partnered with several local treatment facilities.

Carrie Kubasta with ThedaCare Behavioral Health told us this will be a huge help.

"One of the things we hear over and over again from people that are coming to treatment is, you know, the difficulty getting into treatment. Who do they call? Where do they go?" she told us.

And, Kubasta explained, when people are struggling with addiction they can have even more trouble with an already difficult situation. She said sometimes addicts give up on getting help because it's too hard.

"Worst case scenario is death and that does happen," said Kubasta.

According to officers about 40 people die each year in the Fox Valley from opiate overdoses.

They told us they can't arrest their way out of the problem

"People have to be held accountable when they break the law, but we know that addiction isn't going to go away when they're in jail," said Kubasta.

"Addiction is not a crime, absolutely not and that's why we are choosing to look at this as a treatment issue and not a criminal issue," added Kuether.

If addicts are arrested, they too could take part in LEAAP, but they would still need to go through the court system as well.

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