ELK COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Attorney General Josh Shapiro made a stop in Elk County on Wednesday, announcing a collaborative program is expanding.

The expansion of the Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative to Elk County will now allow people seeking treatment to use local law enforcement as a resource without the threat of an arrest.

“In 2020, there were 5,168 Pennsylvania brothers and sisters and moms and dads and children who succumbed to an overdose,” Shapiro said at the event.

Shapiro gathered at the Elk County Office of Emergency Services to announce the expansion of the LETI program, which is the 16th in the state

It will create contacts to participating treatment partners in the community and is meant to help people seeking treatment for addiction get the help they need through local police.

“My office, in concert with District Attorney Coppolo and the rest of law enforcement here today, are simply saying, very very clearly, turn to us for help,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said over $1,100,000,000 of funding will be earmarked for addiction treatment in Pennsylvania and will be delegated throughout Elk County beginning this summer.

“We’re looking forward to putting LETI into practice.,” St. Marys’ Police Chief Thomas Nicklas said. “As with any program like this, if we help just a few, we’re gonna count this as successful. But of course, we hope to help more than just a few.”

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The program is meant to help identify treatment for those who seek it, assist with transportation to facilities as well as create and maintain relationships with local treatment providers to understand availability.

“We can not simply arrest our way out of this crisis,” Shapiro said. “We understand that drug addiction is a disease, not a crime. Wherever I go across the commonwealth the course is the same: we need more and easier access to treatment.”

Anyone in need of resources can contact the Cameron, Elk, Mckean County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Services office for more information.