• Sara Michalowicz

Will County Receives Grant to Battle Heroin Use

Photo courtesy of WLKY.com

A grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services was given to Will County to aid in its continuing battle against heroin use.

The grant comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, totaling $122,500 in each of the next five years. A portion of this sum will be used to hire a full-time position used to expands its education and prevention efforts.

Will County has been addressing this epidemic, which claimed 76 lives in the county in 2016, per County Executive Larry Walsh. Data from the Will County coroner’s office showed that 35 heroin-related fatalities occurred in 2014 and 53 in 2015, making 2016 the highest rate in the past three years, revealing a growth in use of the drug.

Kathleen Burke will be hired to expand the county’s efforts in tackling prescription drug and opioid related deaths. Burke’s expertise in the field of addiction and widespread experience in creating curriculums for prevention will be a tremendous help and Walsh expressed she will be “extremely effective” as the director of this grant.

Burke’s duties include expanding the availability of Naloxone, continue educational efforts across the county and in the school system and establish long-term sustainability of the project to help prevention in future years.

In addition, she will work with the county’s Health Department and the Regional Office of Education on substance abuse prevention, expand community education on prevention, treatment and recovery of substance abuse disorders and seek opportunities for more grants.

Educational programs have been held in Lincoln-Way School District 210, Valley View School District 365U in Bolingbrook, Plainfield School District 202 and Wilmington District 209. Such educational programs are essential because children are tempted to use prescription drugs that they find in their medicine cabinet, said Walsh.

In addition, Walsh stated that “we continue to think outside the box and move forward wherever we can be of help.” He also explained that he is proud that Will County is a pioneer in recognizing this issue and working towards prevention.

In a news release Burke stated, “opioid addiction is a crisis in the United States. Will County has been a leader in heroin prevention efforts and now with this new funding, I will be proud to help continue and build upon these programs to prevent opiate addiction.”

Burke is sure that these new programs will save lives.

Burke is coordinating a new county program, called the Safe Passage Initiative, which allows for any resident fighting an opiate addiction the ability to go to Lemont, Lockport or Mokena police departments and seek help. Those seeking help with be put in contact with a volunteer from A Man in Recovery Foundation, who with then escort them to an accredited treatment center. By the end of this year, all police departments are looking to offer this program to their city’s residents.

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