The council unanimously approved the motion during its meeting Monday.
Before the vote, Dixon City Manager Danny Langloss told the council that adding a social worker falls in line with the police department’s ongoing work to help people with addiction issues – before their arrest – to assist in recovery.
“Back in 2015, we created the Safe Passage Initiative,” Langloss said, which launched in Dixon and Lee County eight years ago and grew to include Sterling, Rock Falls, Whiteside County and other area law enforcement agencies. The initiative allows addicts to approach law enforcement, hand over their drugs and go directly into treatment without being arrested. It was the second initiative of its kind in the nation and the first in Illinois.
“It was a change in law enforcement strategy from arresting people with addiction to connecting them to help, preferably pre-arrest,” Langloss said. “We’ve been part of the drug court for a long time. It’s been a very successful program. We’ve helped that program grow across our state and across the country.”
Three years after Dixon created the initiative, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill, modeled after Dixon’s program, to make it easier for communities to implement Safe Passage programs focusing on putting addicts in treatment rather than behind bars. The legislation created the Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act, which encourages partnerships between law enforcement and treatment centers, allows for state dollars to go toward funding the programs through the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and creates a data collection and evaluation process.
Dixon applied for and received a $79,500 grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority in 2017 to pay for a part-time program coordinator and part-time recovery coaches to help addicts post-rehab, and the funds would also go toward research and data collection to assess the program. Over time, Dixon’s program coordinator transitioned into a full-time position housed under Sinnissippi Centers, which oversaw the position as part of a contract with the city.
That position now often works off-site alongside Sauk Valley Voices of Recovery, and Sinnissippi said it doesn’t make as much sense for that organization to oversee the position, Langloss said. With an emergence of social workers being brought into police departments, Langloss said Dixon police would like to have a licensed social worker added to the department. Langloss said that would be beneficial because of the department’s use of the Safe Passage Initiative and the skyrocketing number of calls that involve people with addiction and mental health issues.
“They can actually go out onto a scene with officers and assist in deescalation or connecting people to the appropriate services,” he said. “It’s more in their wheelhouse than that of the police.”
They could become part of the crisis prevention team, with includes Sinnissippi Centers, KSB, the city police department, Lee County and the Lee County State’s Attorney’s Office, and could be a resource for police and fire department personnel when they are working a difficult scene, he said.
The cost of the position would be between $75,951 and $90,688, with one or maybe two grants covering the cost. While waiting for a second grant, $18,000 that’s budgeted for a community service officer who has since retired could be used to complete covering the costs. The Anti-Crime Task Force Fund or the Drug Fund also could be used to cover costs over the next few years if needed, Langloss said.
The City Council unanimously approved the motion.
In other business, the council approved the purchase of Christmas decorations not to exceed a cost of $10,500, with the money coming from COVID-19 relief funds. The council also approved the reappointments of Roger Willey, Tom Bushman, Gary DeBord, Scott Brinkmeier, Michael K. Jordan and Lexi Klein-Willey to the Veterans Memorial Commission for a term beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2025. John M. Reining was appointed to the Dixon Airport Board for a term to begin Sept. 18 and end Dec. 31, 2024.