Will County officials take part in opioid awareness event

Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah co-chaired a recent public hearing by the Governor’s Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force in Chicago.

The task force is visiting communities across the state in search of information and partners to further the state’s Opioid Action Plan in response to the state’s escalating opioid overdose epidemic. Will County’s Director of Substance Use Initiatives Dr. Kathleen Burke was invited to be part of a panel to discuss the county’s response efforts.

The task force members heard testimony from experts in four key groups involved in this issue: personal stories, law enforcement, health care and behavioral health providers, and local response.

The goal of the Opioid Action Plan is to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths by one-third in three years.

Burke shared information about the county’s efforts including expanded Narcan training and Safe Passage participants.

“The message from many of these groups was the lack of access to treatment and identified the gaps in service dealing with the opioid epidemic in our state,” Burke said.

“We have Narcan which is keeping people from dying from overdose and we have the Safe Passage program but addiction is a medical disease that requires medical treatment and we do not have enough beds to offer people detox services and treatment.”

Burke cited studies which have shown in-patient treatment is the most effective manner to treat opioid addiction. She described how opioids “rewire” a person’s brain which intensifies the cravings and makes treatment difficult.

“We have to increase our capacity to save lives,” said Dr. Burke.