Chicago Police Department, Chicago Department of Public Health Announce Expansion of Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program

July 8, 2021

Program to expand into all 22 police districts by end of year

CPD Office of News Affairs    (312) 745-6110

Erica Duncan, Chicago Department of Public Health     erica.duncan@cityofchicago.org

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced the expansion of the Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program (NADP), which is designed to divert individuals with a substance use disorder away from the criminal justice system and towards treatment and recovery services.

The expansion of the program is an important step in CPD's reform efforts. Diverting individuals experiencing a substance use disorder to the public health system improves health outcomes and enables CPD to focus its time and energy on the deterrence and investigation of other crime, including violent crime.

"This program is an important part of our holistic approach to public safety and community health," said Superintendent David O. Brown. "With our community and City partners, we are committed to connecting people to resources that can change the direction of their lives and ultimately make the city safer for all."

The NADP offers substance use disorder treatment in place of criminal charges for individuals arrested for select drug-related offenses. The program was launched in CPD's 11th (Harrison) District in 2018 and has since expanded into 11 more police districts. It will expand into all 22 police districts by the end of the year.

“Arrest diversion programs that link individuals to evidence-based treatment and social support systems have been shown to reduce recidivism and the social costs of substance use disorders at the individual and community level,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “The expansion of this program is a key step to more effectively and equitably addressing this issue.”

Upon arrest, individuals 18 years or older with no previous violent arrests can opt into a substance use disorder assessment with a clinician at Thresholds, a community healthcare provider. Individuals who have been arrested for possession of one gram or less of heroin or cocaine, or possession of hypodermic syringes, needles or drug paraphernalia are eligible for the program. The clinician refers those who agree to treatment to appropriate inpatient or outpatient providers for an in-depth assessment, and the client is released without charge and transported to their referred treatment facility.

Additionally, community members seeking treatment can walk into police districts to be connected to a substance use treatment provider. Since the program launched in 2018, NADP has approximately 700 people into treatment.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab is currently evaluating the program to help fully understand the impact of deflecting these individuals from jail into treatment.

The program is expanding amidst a citywide increase in drug overdoses. There were over 13,700 opioid-related overdoses in Chicago in 2020, a 31.5% increase over 2019. Provisional data indicate that there were 1,299 overdose deaths in 2020, which represents a 51.9% increase in overdose deaths compared to 2019. Overdoses disproportionately impact high economic hardship areas and are heavily concentrated on the West Side.

In 2020, the community areas with the highest number of opioid-related EMS responses were Humboldt Park (1,471), Austin (1,433), West Garfield Park (1,137), and East Garfield Park (1,053). Opioid-related overdose deaths are highest among men, non-Latinx Blacks, and adults age 45-54. Opioid-related overdose deaths are among the top drivers of the 8.8-year life expectancy gap between Black Non-Latinx and White Non-Latinx Chicagoans. Provisional data indicate that over 50% of fatal overdoses in 2020 occurred among Black non-Latinx individuals, although Blacks make up less than a third of the city’s population.

Substance use disorders are treatable, chronic medical illnesses that affect over 20 million American adults.v Effective substance use disorder treatment, including medication assisted recovery to treat opioid use disorder, requires a holistic health-centered approach to individual patient needs that reflects the individual, community, and societal-level risk factors for the development of a substance use disorder. Engagement with the criminal justice system can cause or exacerbate underlying traumas that lead to substance misuse and can increase overdose risk, as opioid tolerance is often lessened after a period of incarceration.

"Through this partnership, Thresholds is able to provide outreach and effective treatment that empowers clients, prevents overdoses, and saves lives,” said Tim Devitt, Associate Vice President of Clinical Operations at Thresholds. “Linkages and referrals with community partners are establishing a recovery pathway for those with complicated substance use and mental health conditions."

CDPH is actively working to address the opioid crisis in Chicago in other ways. The Department funded the Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) to conduct a landscape analysis of the West and South Sides to identify service gaps and barriers for people at risk of overdose, and is working with IPHI to fund the Chicago Linkage to Assisted Recovery and Treatment (CLART) program, which aims to improve systems of care for people with opioid use disorder.

CDPH has also expanded overdose prevention and harm reduction services in communities of highest need, funds a novel drug checking program that allows persons who use drugs to have their drugs checked prior to use to reduce risk of overdose, and is working to coordinate substance use outreach and treatment services in neighborhoods on the West Side.

For more information about opioids in Chicago, visit https://overcomeopioids.org/.

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