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Local News

Will County seeks grant to fight heroin epidemic

Grant would purchase Narcan for police departments

JOLIET – The Will County Executive’s Office has applied for a grant to fund the fight against the perils of heroin addiction.

Dr. Kathleen Burke and Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., presented Thursday morning to the County Board’s Public Health Committee the potential benefits of the grant, which was filed with the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Burke, president and owner of addiction-fighting and recovery organization Strategic Prevention, said it’s good Will County qualifies for the grant, but at the same time, it’s also sad that addiction and death statistics have gotten to this point.

The grant, at $122,500 each year for five years, would expand addiction programs throughout the county and help first responders save lives.

“First, it would provide dollars to purchase Naloxone, which has been a barrier for police departments who don’t have budgeted dollars for it,” Burke said in an interview Thursday afternoon.

Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan, is an opiate overdose reversal medication administered as a nasal spray to the victim of an overdose. Burke said police throughout the county were carrying two doses of Narcan but are now switching to a stronger, one-dose product.

First responders have found recently that it has taken two doses in many cases to save a life, Burke said. She said that’s likely because drug makers are lacing heroin with fentanyl, an even more powerful opiate than heroin.

The grant also could fund training of jail employees to provide recovery kits for addicted inmates who are more prone to an overdose upon release, Burke said. It would provide funds for training families of addicts, church groups and other community organizations. There’s potentially funding for “same homes” that guide addicts toward treatment, as well as training of recovery coaches at hospitals.

“Addiction is a lifetime disease and relapse is part of it,” Burke said. “Our goal is to keep people sober as long as possible and not have them die.”

Sustainability is key, Palmer said. That’s why the grant would be spread over five years. The grant would pay for a full-time position, benefits and supplies for all programs. There is no guarantee of the position continuing at the end of the proposed grant’s term.

“As with all grant-funded positions, it then ends,” Palmer said. “But [Burke] would be the presumptive candidate [for the position].”

Palmer said he hopes to hear in September or October from the Department of Human Services regarding the application. No action was taken by the committee because it was a preliminary presentation.

Burke said heroin has been most difficult to fight in the Joliet and Braidwood areas of the county.

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