EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — For many people, addiction can lead to arrest and jail time, but an initiative in the commonwealth launched in 2018 is helping those struggling and looking to break the cycle of addiction.

It does so by reaching out to an unlikely source, law enforcement.

It’s called the Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative, or LETI. A growing number of Pennsylvania counties participate in it. The goal is to help those struggling with addiction get help by taking an unusual path: Going to the police.

“The LETI program is something we needed for a long time because we need to break down the barriers between law enforcement, criminal justice, and treatment,” said Joe Peters, Wyoming County District Attorney.

Wyoming County is the latest county in the commonwealth to join LETI, which empowers law enforcement officers to guide individuals into treatment, without the threat of arrest.

“They’ll have the opportunity to come forward without repercussions and get the help that they need, you can’t arrest your way out of the situation,” explains Chief Keith Carpenter of the Tunkhannock Police Department.

The program was started by State Attorney General Josh Shapiro with the help of police, sheriffs, probation, and parole officers.

“Who would have every thought? I didn’t when I became a police officer and later a police chief that a person could come into the police station and rather than be arrested for their drug use, say I need help and importantly that police offer that woman or man would take them and deliver them to treatment,” describe Peters.

Anyone seeking treatment in counties participating in the LETI program can go to their local police station where officers will connect them with a local treatment partner to help them on the path to recovery.

“And what it does is it gives the opportunity instead of making a forceful arrest and going through the harsh penalties behind it you actually have the chance to assist someone who is looking for help and getting off of substance abuse,” said Carpenter

The Attorney General’s office and agencies involved in the LETI program believe using treatment as a weapon to fight addiction is vital.

“It doesn’t condone bad decisions or drug use, because drug use can kill you, but it is a way to give people a second chance so that they’re not labeled their whole life, there is no stigma, and they can go on and be a productive citizen,” explained Peters.

Counties interested in becoming part of the LETI program can find information on the PA Attorney General’s website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs website.