'Angel Program' Could Help Henderson Addicts Heal

A deadly drug epidemic sweeping across the country and the Tri-State shows no signs of stopping. Jails are overcrowded and some say treatments centers are under-used.

To change that, Henderson city leaders may try a new way to help people hooked on drugs.

They look to a Louisville police department that has made a unique promise to people who need help battling their drug addiction. All you need to do is walk in the door.

Ultimately, it aims to save money and lives by offering a helping hand instead of handcuffs.

“Why would somebody think a police officer is going to help them get into treatment?” A question posed by Sgt. Brittney Garrett with Jeffersontown, Ky. Police Department.

“I had plenty of people ask me that,” she says to a room filled with Henderson officials Tuesday evening. “This is a very valid question, I don’t think any of us know if anybody would.”

Henderson hopes to heal, and the answer may come with an angel.

Sgt. Garrett says this revolutionary program has helped in the Louisville suburb. “They never really thought they would be able to sit across the table and talk to a police officer about their addiction.”

Police in Jeffersontown are breaking the mold on addiction by getting addicts into treatment instead of jail. No judgment, just walk in the door. They’ll even get rid of your drugs, no questions asked.

“We’re going to remove the word ‘junkie’ from our vocabulary,” says Garrett.

In almost a year with the program, JPD has helped more than 50 people into treatment. Even people who walk in the door high are given the same chance to heal in the Angel Program.

Henderson Mayor, Steve Austin believes the city could support it, even if it’s on a smaller scale. “They’ve changed the culture of the police department and they are looking at the welfare of their community in a little different way.”

This is one piece of the puzzle. Sgt. Garrett says there is still a long way to go. Even with prevention methods increasing and more access to resources, including Angel programs across the country, “we’re still seeing a rise in overdose deaths,” she says.

Finding an Angel isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card, either. Garrett says people with warrants, a violent past, or someone on probation or parole isn’t eligible.

Garrett believes it’s changing Louisville; collectively giving a quick and compassionate response to personal crisis. It may just change Henderson, too.

“It’s a different concept,” says Austin, “but we live in different times right now.”

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