Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program (NADP)

Chicago has not been spared the national opioid epidemic’s devastating social, health, and economic consequences. Here the opioid crisis disproportionately affects communities on the city’s West Side, where open-air markets supply the majority of Chicagoland’s heroin. Individuals living in these communities not only face the crime and violence brought on by the drug trade but are also widely affected by opioid use: while the West Side accounts for roughly 7% of Chicago’s population, it accounts for over 20% of fatal overdoses in the city.

Though the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has worked extensively to stem the flow of heroin through the West Side, there is still much work to be done to break the cycle of devastation that substance use disorder and incarceration can do to people’s lives. Clinicians, policymakers, and judges have long hypothesized that channeling some drug-involved offenders away from prosecution and incarceration and into treatment could help reduce the negative health impacts brought on by exposure to the criminal justice system, achieving greater health equity and improving lives. Evidence suggests that diversion programs such as the LEAD program in Seattle reduce recidivism and the associated costs for individuals and communities struggling with substance use disorder and related criminal activity. 

In 2016, CPD and HIDTA (the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, federal law enforcement focused on drug trafficking) partnered with the community healthcare provider Thresholds and the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Health Lab to design, test and scale the Chicago Police Department Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program (NADP), a police-led drug deflection program that offers substance use treatment in place of incarceration. NADP serves individuals arrested in four police districts on Chicago’s West Side: 011 (Garfield Park), 010 (Lawndale), 015 (Austin), and 025 (Humboldt Park). The program seeks to address the root cause of opioid and other substance use through providing a supportive, rather than punitive, intervention for individuals with substance use disorders apprehended by CPD.

In addition to serving those arrested for drug possession, NADP also offers walk-in treatment in District 011. NADP clinicians are available to serve walk-in residents who request substance use treatment, with no prior arrest necessary. So far, 65 individuals have signed up for treatment using this service. NADP has been able to identify, engage, and retain a population in need of treatment. To date, NADP has deflected 440 people from jail and into treatment. Upon enrollment, twenty-five percent of NADP clients had previously experienced an overdose, and 20% had no history of substance use treatment. Of those who attended treatment at Thresholds, almost half returned for another day of treatment, which is over twice the anticipated rate.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab and Health Lab are evaluating NADP’s effect on participants’ criminal justice contact both as arrestees and victims as well as other health and wellbeing outcomes pending data availability.