Menomonie (WQOW) - Menomonie police and city officials are collaborating to tackle the growing meth and opioid drug crisis.
The proposed program, Project Hope, aims to address the issue in a new way.
Project Hope was unveiled at Monday night's Menomonie city council meeting.
"We're here to help our people, not lock them up," said Randy Knaack, mayor of Menomonie.
The project will use evidence-based practices in hopes of solving meth and opioid addiction in the city.
The collaboration between the city and police department includes four pillars: prevention, treatment, enforcement, and hard reduction. It will cost around $200,000 a year, but Mayor Knaack says it will actually save money and lives in the long run.
"Well Dunn County, which Menomonie is the hub of, has spent approximately $1 million last year in Human Services alone dealing with addiction and so forth so we feel that a couple of hundred thousand dollars put into this program will make miles and miles of headway down the road," said Knaack.
Menomonie Chief of Police Eric Atkinson says Project Hope differs from traditional policing models because it doesn't focus on incarceration, but rather reducing recidivism through treatment.
"Essentially they are offered an opportunity to be deflected prior to even entering the criminal justice system," said Atkinson. "And if they are involved in certain offenses, we can offer the opportunity to divert them away before they ever receive a criminal charge, thus having the potential stigma of a criminal charge against them or a conviction or potential incarceration."
The project also includes educating the entire community on the impact of drugs. Atkinson adds similar programs have shown to work across the country including states like Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts.
Menomonie police plan to go before the council again in March to request funding for the project.