A new law enforcement treatment initiative is coming to Erie County.

Erie County District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz said this is a great way to help people suffering from substance use disorder and get access to the treatment they need.

“Guide them away from the criminal justice system to make sure they get that treatment. So it’s a diversion program to help low-level, non-violent offenders,” said Hirz.

She added that many times they don’t know where to get the treatment they need.

“So the officers will have that information with them. Anyone from the general public can contact the police to ask for a referral, so there are many tools and methods to help these individuals out who are suffering from abuse,” Hirz continued.

City of Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny said they have seen a dramatic rise in overdose-related deaths — and this is a proactive program.

“If we know that someone we know has a drug problem and if it’s only a minor crime, we can try to get them into this program rather than putting them into the criminal justice system,” said Spizarny.

He added this is a chance to turn their lives around without the stigma of having a criminal charge on their record.

Jake Bauer was struggling with drug addiction for years and credits programs like these for saving his life

“I battled with drug addiction for all my life and got in trouble with the law and was introduced to a treatment program and successfully completed that and was able to change my life around,” said Jake Bauer, battled with drug addiction.

Training for the program will be launched next month. Erie is the 22nd program in the state to have this program.