NY TIMES article on increasing Fentanyl deaths

New-York-Times-emblemThe first governmental account of nationwide drug deaths in 2016 shows overdose deaths growing even faster than previously thought.

Drug overdoses killed roughly 64,000 people in the United States last year, according to the first governmental account of nationwide drug deaths to cover all of 2016. It’s a staggering rise of more than 22 percent over the 52,404 drug deaths recorded the previous year — and even higher than The New York Times’s estimate in June, which was based on earlier preliminary data.

Drug overdoses are expected to remain the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, as synthetic opioids — primarily fentanyl and its analogues — continue to push the death count higher. Drug deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, accompanied by an upturn in deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamine. Together they add up to an epidemic of drug overdoses that is killing people at a faster rate than the H.I.V. epidemic at its peak.

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Great Feature Article: Chief Eric Guenther


Eric’s suburban Chicago police department started to see a spike in heroin and prescription drug use. What officers reported, however, was that they were returning to some homes as many as three times to reverse overdoses. They wanted to figure out how to provide help on the front end, before the overdose.


Eric reached out to seven other police chiefs in the county to come up with a strategy to divert drug users from the criminal justice system to health treatment. That concept became The Way Out program through which drug users can walk into a police station and ask for help without fear of being handcuffed.

The police departments partner with the county health department to screen drug users through a 24-hour crisis line to get them to appropriate care (i.e. inpatient, outpatient, or hospital). The Way Out Program launched June 1, 2016, and now averages 12 cases per month.

Eric also became part of the Lake County Opioid Initiative, a collective of roughly 70 groups that come together monthly to discuss strategies. He became co-leader of the first responders group and the department launched a Naloxone program in which all law enforcement responders were trained to administer the drug that reverses an overdose. Over three years, the program has reversed 170 overdoses.

For the rest of the article go here…

Lake County Opioid Initiative adds 4 new PD’s to the A Way Out program.

AWO LogoThe Lake County Opioid Initiative (LCOI) today reported an expansion of its groundbreaking law enforcement pre-arrest diversion program, A Way Out. Four new agencies have been added as entrance sites including Deerfield Police Department, Fox Lake Police Department, Zion Police Department, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. A Way Out co-coordinator and Mundelein Director of Public Safety, Eric Guenther said, “A Way Out has far exceeded anyone’s expectations. This is a direct result of diligent teamwork, but most importantly because the individuals utilizing this program have placed their faith and trust in us.”

By taking advantage of A Way Out, participants and their loved ones are given the opportunity to access support and treatment to end the destructive cycle that addiction has caused in their lives. Participants are given the chance to avoid the biological, psychological and environmental harms, and are set on a direct course to recovery through services provided by Gateway Foundation, Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, the Lake County Health Department’s Substance Abuse Program and other providers across northern Illinois and the state. The only requirement of participants is self-motivation. Karen Wolownik Albert, Gateway Foundation, Executive Director-Lake County Treatment Services said, “For persons struggling with a Substance Use Disorder, the decision to seek help can be scary. Navigating the challenges of finding an available treatment resources can be daunting, and many people may give up. A Way Out guides and supports persons through the process of accessing treatment and taking those first steps toward recovery. We are so fortunate in Lake County to have a multidisciplinary network of individuals and organizations working collaboratively to end overdose and provide assistance to persons struggling with Substance Use Disorders.”

Since the launch of A Way Out in June 2016, 170 people were connected to treatment and recovery programs. A Way Out graduate, Danya Vasquez said, “It is impossible to measure the value of the lives that this program has saved and the lives that it continues to save. Allowing people like me the opportunity to receive treatment without fear of incarceration is beneficial to everyone. A Way Out literally saved my life.”

A Way Out is available 24 hours a day at participating police agencies across Lake County and ensures no criminal charges will be sought for those that may be in possession of narcotics or paraphernalia, as long as assistance is sought out by the prospective program participant. Individuals struggling with addiction to any substance or who are from outside of Lake County are eligible. Participants can locate a participating police agency, walk through the main entrance, and inform the staff that they are looking for A Way Out. After regular business hours (including weekends), participants can utilize the call box near the front door which will connect him/her to a dispatch operator who will them through the next steps.

The process for accessing care through the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is broader to accommodate for all unincorporated areas of the County as well as contract communities, and communities without a full-time law enforcement agency. During regular working hours, which are Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, participants may come to one of three Sheriff’s Office locations including:

  • 25 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Waukegan
  • 1301 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville – Call (847) 549-5200 to inform of intent to participate
  • 703 U.S. Rt. 12, Fox Lake – Call (847) 549-5200 to inform of intent to participate

The Sheriff’s staff will contact a deputy to work with the participant. If a participant reaches out for assistance and has no transportation, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office will dispatch a deputy to pick up the participant. After regular business hours, participants may call (847) 549-5200 and request A Way Out. A deputy will be dispatched to the participant’s location if no transportation is available.

Sheriff Mark Curran stated, “Unfortunately, most of us know of a family devastated by addiction. In most cases, family members endure suffering along with their addicted loved ones. As leaders in public safety, we continuously seek solutions that keep families intact and ensure jails house criminals, not people suffering from substance use disorders. We cannot cure addiction through arrests and incarceration, but, we can be a supportive link to services for those who are ready for help. A Way Out is a way into sobriety and self-sufficiency, one person at a time and one day at a time.”

Information and instructions can be found at AWayOutLC.org or via the Lake County Helps app which is available for Android and IOS devices.

About Lake County Opioid Initiative:

The Lake County Opioid Initiative’s mission is to develop, implement, evaluate and sustain a multi-strategy county-wide effort to prevent opioid abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. LCOI was founded by Michael G. Nerheim, Lake County State’s Attorney, Chelsea Laliberte, Executive Director of Live4Lali, Bruce Johnson, CEO of Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, and George Filenko, Chief of the Round Lake Park Police Department.

Recognized by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and National Association of Counties (NACo), LCOI has achieved national acclaim as a collaborative, cutting edge, countywide task force developed to overturn the devastating effects caused by the opioid epidemic. Since its inception in 2013, LCOI retains a membership of more than 300 people across 80+ agencies, and has developed groundbreaking programs, of which two focus on public safety as critical change agents in the fight against addiction and overdose. Anyone can become a member of LCOI. Meetings are held the third Thursday of every month. For more information, please visit: http://www.opioidinitiative.org or http://www.awayoutlc.org

Get the Lake County Help App

lakecountyhelpapp.jpgThe Lake County Help mobile app was developed by LEAD and is intended for residents of Lake County, IL and surrounding communities. Included in this app is access to a 24/7 anonymous text crisis line (Text-A-Tip), access to the law enforcement assisted diversion drug treatment program (A Way Out), signs and symptoms of an overdose, and information about Naloxone (Narcan) and the Illinois Good Samaritan law.  Click here to download the app via iTunes.

Everyday Law Podcast & Blog with State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim

Great Video describing the “A Way Out” program.


Some “A Way Out” information for you.


CDC Numbers on Opioid Deaths

drug overdose numbers

One short letter’s huge impact on the opioid epidemic

cnn_logo_2449Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose. Drug overdoses overall — most of them from opioid painkillers and heroin — are the leading cause of accidental death in the US, killing more people than guns or car accidents. In fact, while Americans represent only about 5% of the global population, they consume about 80% of the world’s opioid painkillers. But how did we get to this point?

Many public health experts point to a simple five-sentence letter to the editor published in a 1980 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The 101-word letter, titled “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics,” was signed by Jane Porter and Dr. Hershel Jick of Boston University, who said that of their 11,000-plus patients treated with narcotics, there were only four cases of addiction.

And although this letter provided no further evidence and was not a peer-reviewed study, it has often been cited as proof of the safety of prescribing long-term narcotics for chronic pain.
This article is from CNN and you can read the rest of it here.

How can prescription drugs lead to heroin use?

177Mind Your Meds

Two-thirds of teens who report abuse of prescription medicine are getting them from friends, family and acquaintances. Make sure the teens in your life don’t have access to your medicine. Follow these three steps to find out how to monitor, secure and properly dispose of unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter cough medicine in your home.

Step 1: Monitor

Parents are in an influential position to immediately help reduce teen access to prescription medicine because medicine is commonly found in the home. But how aware are you of the quantities that are currently in your home? Think about this: Would you know if some of your pills were missing? From this day forward, make sure you can honestly answer yes.

Start by taking note of how many pills are in each of your prescription bottles or pill packets, and keep track of refills. This goes for your own medicine, as well as for your teens and other members of the household. If you find you need to refill your medicine more often than expected, that could indicate a problem.

If your teen has been prescribed a medicine, be sure you control the medicine, and monitor dosages and refills. You need to be especially vigilant with medicines that are known to be addictive and commonly abused by teens, such as opioidsbenzodiazepines and stimulants.

Make sure your friends, parents of your teen’s friends, neighbors and relatives — especially grandparents — are also aware of the risks. Encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicines in their own homes.

Step 2: Secure

Approach securing your prescriptions the same way you would other valuables in your home, like jewelry or cash. There’s no shame in helping protect those items, and the same holds true for your medicine.

Take prescription medicine out of the medicine cabinet and secure them in a place only you know about. As mentioned previously, if your teen has been prescribed a medicine, be sure you control the medicine and monitor dosages.

If possible, keep all medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, in a safe place, such as a locked cabinet your teen cannot access. Spread the word to other households that teens may have access to, and encourage them to secure their prescriptions as well.

Step 3: Dispose

Safely disposing of expired or unused medicine is a critical step in helping to protect your teens, your family and home, and decrease the opportunity for your teens or their friends to abuse your medicine. Lake County has a network here.