Litchfield Police To Partner In Drug Rehab

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A new program coming to Litchfield is aiming to slow the substance abuse problem that has plagued communities all over the country, while also building a stronger relationship with the Litchfield Police Department.

Kent Tarro of the Macoupin County Health Department and Taylorville Police Chief Dwayne Wheeler spoke to the council about the Safe Passages program that the city will be implementing.

Tarro said that the Macoupin County Health Department had been coordinating with Litchfield Police Chief Kenny Ryker and Gillespie Police Chief Jared DePoppe to start the program, which is a treatment and recovery program to help those with substance abuse issues.

Safe Passages allows abusers of drugs and/or alcohol to present themselves to a police department and let them know that they are ready to lead a more healthy lifestyle. Police officers then contact a Safe Passages coordinator, who gets the individual into a recovery program such as Gateway Foundation in Springfield or Alton Memorial Hospital’s recovery program. 

The Macoupin County Health Department currently has a recovery program, but is moving forward on expanding their services to develop St. Francis Way Clinic, which will be located on the campus of St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield.

According to Tarro, the clinic will provide psychiatric, mental health and health care options for recovering substance abusers, which will be brought to the clinic by Litchfield and Gillespie police through the Safe Passages program.

Tarro said that the police will still be arresting drug dealers and those who break the law, but the Safe Passages program allows people to come to the police to get help. 

Tarro said that the focus will be on meth users and those suffering from alcohol and opioid addiction, but all kinds of substance abusers will have a place to receive help.

Chief Wheeler, who implemented the program at his stops in Kincaid and Taylorville before expanding to Pana and Nokomis as well, spoke about how the Safe Passages program and its impact on the Taylorville community.

Wheeler said that in its first year, Taylorville worked with more than 200 people and crimes such as burglary and theft went down 45 percent. He added that the mayor and city council are integral to the program in regards to their support, but there isn’t a line item on the budget for Safe Passages.

Fundraising for the program in Taylorville is done through a church, which then gives the donations to the program to purchase gas cards for drivers, clothes for patients and the salary of a Safe Passages coordinator who is on call.

The program not only helps lower the crime rate, but it also builds relationships between the police, the addicts and the families of the addicts who need help. Chief Wheeler said that those who go through the problem often help police with cleaning up the current drug problem by giving information on area drug dealers, leading to a 100 percent increase in drug arrests in Taylorville.

Safe Passages Coordinator Denise Evans also spoke briefly, saying that the group is also working on starting the program with the Salvation Army in Springfield. She said that she has an appointment in February with Chief Ryker to begin the set up of the Safe Passages program in Litchfield.

Mayor Steve Dougherty said that he is really looking forward to the program beginning in Litchfield and that every person knows someone who has been affected by substance abuse.

In other business, the council approved an ordinance setting the 2021 Lake Lou Yaeger fees, approved the 2021 lease agreement and rules for the lake front seasonal camping and the Bi-Centennial Campground seasonal camping, and approved a 20 percent credit be afforded to returning Bi-Centennial annual lease holders. Last year, the council also approved a 33 percent credit for lake lot holders.

The council approved repairs to a varying frequency drive at the water treatment plant for $6,719.94, the purchase of upper and lower Polpro filter press belts for the wastewater treatment plant for $3,650 and the purchase of a 2021 E-One VM8 Aluminum Commercial Mini Pumper mounted on a Ford F550 4x4, 4-door chassis with a 300 gallon tank and a 1250 gallon per minute pump from Banner Fire Equipment for $244,495.

Alderman Dwayne Gerl asked why the mini pumper was not put out for bid. Fire Chief Joe Holomy said that the equipment is a demonstration model and does not fall under the requirement to go out for bid. He said that he monitors vendors for these demonstration models, which are significantly cheaper and go quickly.

Alderman Woody Street said that he is all for getting three bids when possible, but felt like the significant savings made this purchase worth it. The motion to purchase passed 6-1 with Gerl voting no and Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson absent.

Two other motions also drew dissension, both of which pertained to the Eagle Ridge subdivision. Alderman Gerl and Alderman Mark Brown voted against an ordinance authorizing the city to execute a lease for property located in the subdivision, while Alderman Brown also voted against an ordinance designating stop signs in the subdivision.

Prior to the meeting, two public hearings were held, with neither drawing any questions from the council or the public viewing the meeting virtually on Zoom.

The first hearing was to close out the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Community Development Block Grant, which was used for road and sidewalk improvements on North Illinois from Ryder to Union.

Emily Fortschneider said that $513,800 was spent on the project, which affected an area made up of 51.35 low income individuals. Fortschneider said that the project came in under budget and the remaining $168,000 would be moved to another Community Development Block Grant won by the city for the rehabilitation of the Southside ditch.

The other hearing was dealt with the annexation of parcel number 10-32-226-006, which is owned by M&M Service Company and adjacent to their current facility. Dave Wright of M&M said that the main reason for the annexation request is to get water access to the property as the company would like to build a new facility on the property.

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