MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison police are seeing a good response to a new program that aims to treat, not punish, drug addicts who commit crimes.
Police started the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI) on September 1. It allows people who would otherwise be arrested for low-level drug-related crimes to avoid being charged, if they promise to get treatment for at least six months.
Officer Dan Swanson says the department started the program with grant funding, in an effort to save lives.
"We're seeing heroin overdoses and deaths from overdoses just skyrocket statistically. What we're doing currently isn't enough," Swanson told 27 News.
So far this year, there have already been 200 heroin-related overdoses in Madison. Police say 20 of those people died, which is an increase of 350 percent over last year.
In the first two months, officers have referred nearly 30 people to MARI. Almost half have started treatment through Connections Counseling in Madison.