By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia police are using a new tactic for certain low-level offenders: Police-Assisted Diversion is an approach to getting defendants with addiction problems off of drugs instead of into jail.

City officials say the program, nicknamed PAD, is a two-fer, both fighting the opioid epidemic and reducing the jail population. It gives officers the option of referring non-violent offenders to treatment services instead of arresting and charging them. They can also refer someone who simply appears to need help.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross called it a valuable tool.

“We’re excited about the manner in which we’re doing this,” Ross said, “and we think this will serve as a model for other big cities.”

Police began piloting the program in one North Philadelphia district a few months ago and have diverted 26 people. PAD officers are expanding into a neighboring district and Mayor Jim Kenney’s budget would add two more this summer.

“If we can get them on the right track and get them the help that they need and the support that they need to be productive citizens, we can reduce our misery factor and allow people to meet their potential,” Kenney said.