Boise Police pilot new way to tackle opioid problem

The program will allow 10 people , who are facing low-level opioid-related criminal charges, to opt for treatment rather than jail time (CBS 2 Photo).

Police in Boise are tackling the city's opioid problem at a new angle — focusing on the treatment of addiction rather than just enforcement of the law.

Funding for the opioid addiction treatment diversion program came this week from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Already, BPD is starting to recruit willing participants.

In its pilot year, the program will allow 10 people who are facing low-level opioid-related criminal charges to opt for treatment rather than jail time.

"There's an accountability piece to this," said Officer Terry Weir with BPD. "We're not letting drug dealers have a free treatment. That's not how this works. This is for people who truly want help."

The treatment will be monitored. If participants commit to the program, there will be no charges. If they don't, they could face jail time.

Officer Weir and a few members of BPD's Organized Retail Crime Interdiction Unit worked together to create the program, along with several community partners, after realizing something more needed to be done to address the issue of opioids in the Boise area.

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Opioids can range from prescription pain killers to heroin and fentanyl.

While traditional enforcement does help get drugs off the streets, Officer Weir told CBS 2 News that it doesn't work alone because opioid addiction is not a one dimensional issue.

"We would see a lot of the same people we would arrest over and over and over again, because there was nothing to treat the addiction portion," he said.

Now, through this program, people who are caught in the foothold of addiction are being given another chance to truly regain their footing.

"All these stories, all the the people I interview, I remember their stories," said Officer Weir. "I take it personally, because I am the one sitting across the table from them, hearing their stories. I don't ever want them to feel like I am just getting the information and I don't care."

Prevention is the third leg to this effort — the department is working inside local schools to educate 8th and 11th graders in the Boise School District about opioid addiction.

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