Janesville’s DROP program offers heroin addicts help

Instead of arresting heroin users, the Janesville Police Department is hoping to give addicts another chance. The new drug rehabilitation program has only been running for six months, but is already starting to show signs of success.

“I would’ve probably buried her. I would’ve buried my daughter. I had the funeral planned,” said Becky Drozdowicz.

After years of watching her only child Megan, battle with addiction from drinking at the age of 15 to heroin at age 19, Becky Drozdowicz thought she had run out of options.

“There would be a little ray of hope of that she would become clean but I didn’t know how it was going to happen, when it was going to happen.”

Looking for help, she turned to Officer Brian Foster from the Janesville Police Department.

“He didn’t give up on her. Even when she if she was high. He was still talking to her,” Drozdowicz said.

Years later it’s the same approach Foster is using to create a new program for the Janesville police department called DROP. The program’s name, which stands for Death, Rehab, or Prison, emphasizes to addicts that there are only three options out of addiction.

“The alternative is that they are going to stick a needle in their arm or they are going to go to jail, so they continue to go to treatment,” Foster said.

Instead of arresting the 125 known heroin users in the city, Foster forms relationships with them, connecting them with rehab facilities, jobs and insurance providers.

“As long as they are in treatment and clean. That’s all I care about,” Foster said. “The addicts don’t want to use, but they are out on the street. They are back into their environments. The police department is out on the street so we can keep an eye on them.”

Foster gives users his cell phone number, telling them they can call him at any time of the day. Out of the 25 addicts who are part of the program, two have died, four are in jail and 15 are sober. Foster credits partnership agencies like Janesville Council Center, Mercy Options and the Janesville Psychiatric Clinic for helping to provide resources to get his clients the immediate help they need.

“It’s an epidemic in Janesville as it is all across the nation and we also realized that we cannot arrest our way out of this,” Janesville Police Chief David Moore said.

Now Megan is more than six years sober. The future that seemed so dim to her mother, shows much more than just a ray of sunshine.

“I see her on a journey that has hope,” Drozdowicz said. “That she can really do something with her life and reach other people.”