032415 js 0740June 27, 2016 - Lake County News-Sun | Original article

By Frank S. Abderholden

The Lake County Health Department announced Monday a federal grant will allow it to double the number of individuals the department can treat in its Medication Assisted Treatment program for opioid addiction over the next two years to try and stem a rise in overdose deaths.

The $325,000 grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will allow the county health department to treat 200 individuals and also enable it to make the program clinic a Federally Qualified Health Center, which then allows the county to bill for the services it provides.

"The expansion of our MAT program is an essential next step in the regional effort to address the opioid epidemic, which has had a devastating impact on local families and their communities," said Mark Pfister, the health department's interim executive director, at a media conference in Waukegan announcing the grant. "The expansion of this program is imperative to helping people change addictive behaviors for the long-term."

Tim Sashko, chairman of the Lake County Board of Health, said in 1998 there were 30 deaths attributed to substance abuse, but by 2010 that number had more than tripled to 92. Opioid-related deaths went from 47 in 2008 to 58 in 2015, and heroin-related deaths went from 30 to 42 in the same period.

"We're not moving the needle forward," he said.

U.S. Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill., who serves as co-chairman of the Suburban Anti-Heroin Task Force, said deaths from opioid abuse has become an enormous problem.

"We lose someone every 19 minutes across the country," Dold said. "In suburban counties around Chicago, it's one every three days, and in Cook County, it's one every day."

"Lake County has a huge problem in terms of opiates and heroin," he added, saying he will continue to push opiate legislation like Lali's Law, which increases access to naloxone throughout the United States. The bill is named in memory of Alex Laliberte, a Buffalo Grove resident and Stevenson High School graduate who died seven years ago from a drug overdose.

Dold said he has also worked to get pharmacies to start a prescription drug takeback program for unused pain medication and offer naloxone, an opioid-overdose counter-agent, over the counter to friends and families.

"We have a lot more barriers to overcome," he said.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said addiction is a mental-health issue, and the epidemic is worse than ever.

"It has to be treated as such," she said, noting she helped get the state to override the governor's veto of the Heroin Crisis Act and a state version of Lali's Law. This fall, the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services will start a prescription monitoring program whose funding will not be affected by the budget impasse.

"We know it's about treatment and not punishment," Bush said.

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said to date officers trained by the health department to give naloxone to an overdose patient have saved 91 lives.

"Which is huge — now we can get them into quality treatment," Nerheim said of the grant award. He also mentioned his Way Out pilot program that allows addicts to turn themselves in to a police department without fear of being arrested to get treatment.

Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose gave examples of what is happening on the incarceration side.

"We save lives, but what is the next step? We need to break the cycle and treatment is what's next. Treatment is the answer," he said.

According to Rose, Lake County is only the second county in the state to start administering Vivatrol, which is used to treat addiction to alcohol or narcotics, to outgoing inmates suffering from addiction. The medicine lasts for weeks to cut cravings, and the cost went from $1,100 a treatment to $3.

"Everyone agrees this problem needs to be talked about and MAT can reduce recidivisms and re-offenders so they can become productive citizens," Rose said, noting that from January to June of this year 1,500 inmates went through detox.

"Jail is not the place for these folks — cognitive behavioral therapy is through Nicasa or the health department. We have to rethink this whole spending money for jails," he said, adding that the county is working now on training officers in crisis-intervention training to respond to incidents and de-escalate situations.

Rose also said law enforcement is not ignoring where all these drugs are coming from, saying that in 2015, the county's Gang Crimes Task Force confiscated $3 million in drugs and guns and took more than 60 kilos of heroin off the streets.

"This is an indicator of the magnitude of the problem," he said.

For politicians, according to Aaron Lawlor, chairman of the Lake County Board, "government works best when we realize we can't go it alone, we need federal state and private group support," he said. The latest grant is a "ginormous step forward," he said.

"We need to do more, look at other national models," he said, also noting that the county is low on the number of beds available for mental-health patients per 1,000 residents.

Adam Carson, director of strategic initiatives for the health department, said the grant was received two weeks ago, and the MAT clinic will be located behind the Community Health Center on Grand Avenue in Waukegan.

"The health department needs collaboration and partnerships," he said, adding that the money will also be used for some salaries and medications and patient services.

Mary Gardner, 54 of Waukegan, and Ariel Kolodzinski, 26, of Round Lake Beach, said they were both opioid addicts who are putting their lives back together through the county's clinics.

"I had surgery in 2009 and was put on powerful pain medications," said Gardner of how she got hooked. Then she moved on to snort heroin because "it's more potent and cheaper and easier to get than pharmaceuticals," she said.

She realized she needed to change when her grandson would call her "Grandma."

"I finally had had enough. I said to myself, 'It's time,'" she said, adding that after being on a waiting list for months, she is now on a medication-assisted program that also includes counseling with a psychologist at a county clinic.

"I thank her for my life," Gardner said of her psychologist. "She's my lifeline."

Kolodzinski said she first tried heroin at 13 years old, but didn't really like it and stayed with other drugs like cocaine and marijuana. Then she got an ankle injury at work and was prescribed Norco, a mix of acetaminophen and the narcotic hydrocodone, and she became hooked.

"I started smoking it, and after four months I began injecting it," she said. She struggled for two years, stole money from her mother and then would disappear for days. Then she got into the additive treatment program run by the county where she met Gardner.

"We work on our recovery together, without her I wouldn't be clean today," she said. She has been able to mend fences with her mother.

"The last two years, I've been giving her the respect she deserves as a mother," she said.

Read the original article at the Lake County News-Sun.

Category: Latest

opioid crisis button

Contact Me

Springfield Office:
121C Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: (217) 782-7353

District Office:
10 N. Lake St., Suite 112
Grayslake, IL 60030
Phone: (847) 548-5631