LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky State Police want everyone to know their doors are open to anyone battling addiction. They don’t want to arrest people; troopers would prefer to help them get into treatment.
The initiative started in Jeffersontown and has now spread across the state. The goal isn’t to get softer, but stronger with how Kentucky deals with addiction.
The Angel Initiative program allows people to go into any Kentucky State Police Post and ask for help, clear of fear.
Sarah Mayer started getting help with her drug addiction recently at the Adult and Teen Challenge of Kentucky.
“Every day it was tomorrow, I’m going to get help tomorrow, I’m going to get help,” Mayer, a 30-year-old who started using drugs when she was 22, said. “I was almost relieved going to jail.”
The back and forth of trying to get help ended when she said she was forced into a treatment program.
“This time, I was excited about being here because I was serious,” Mayer said. “I knew my life was going to change.”
Kentucky State Commissioner Rick Sanders said he wanted to stay two steps ahead of people in the battle against addiction.
“In Jeffersontown, we had someone addicted rob a liquor store and the owner shot him,” Sanders said. “We want to help people before they get to that point.”
Sanders started the Angel Initiative program in Jeffersontown. When he became the KSP commissioner in 2016, the program launched statewide.
“We want to be that shoulder for them to lean on to get them into a facility,” Sanders said.
Anyone struggling with addiction can walk into any of the 16 KSP posts across the state and ask for help. Mayer said if this program was around during her battle, it may have gone differently.
“To be able to go and get help without the jail part, that’s a big thing,” Mayer said.
As the CEO of Adult and Teen Challenge of Kentucky, Julie Duvall helps men and women get clean.
“If they can avoid rock bottom, let’s get them into treatment now,” Duvall said. “When they want help, that window only stays open for a limited time.”
Added Sanders: “We have to change the culture of law enforcement and say, ‘Yeah our job is to help people and save lives in addition to stopping crime. (We have to) change the culture of those who are addicted to trust police.”
The program also helps people like Mayer trust themselves and know they can get back on track.
“Really excited to see where my life is going from here,” she said.
The only requirement for the program is you can’t have active warrants out. The program is funded federally, through the state and with donations.
The commissioner said the program has helped 84 people since it launched statewide last year.