Hundreds of residents, professionals, public officials and volunteers attended the annual Hero Helps Summit on Friday in Romeoville to hear about the progress being made to tackle the opioid epidemic in Will County and throughout the state.
Kathleen Burke, director of substance-use initiatives in the Will County Executive’s Office, spoke about the local effort to ensure users seeking help can get what they need. The county has seen multiple police departments implement a safe-passage program, which allows users to seek treatment.
Burke also lauded the efforts of the Will County Drug Court, a diversion program that allows those with opioid-related charges to get treatment, graduate and get their record expunged so they can go on to live a productive life. Burke emphasized that treating addictions like lifelong diseases is the key to helping users and their families.
“Opioid-use disorder is a chronic illness,” Burke said. “It doesn’t go away.”
The event featured panels on topics such as the history of opioid use, how pregnant women are treated, medication-assisted treatment and recovery housing in Will County.
As in past years, Burke also trained attendees on how to use the life-saving drug Narcan, which is used to reverse overdoses.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker made an appearance during the summit to speak about the progress that has been made throughout the state to help those with opioid use disorder.
Pritzker said he knows those on the front lines of the epidemic are doing a lot of good work with limited resources both in Will County and across Illinois.
“I want you all to know that I recognize the critical work that you’re doing, despite those challenges, to provide the best care possible for those who are suffering and for their families,” Pritzker said.
He added that his administration’s efforts have continued to aid those treating users. The state recently secured $15 million from the federal government to enhance efforts. The event was planned and organized by a collaborative, public-private partnership made up of staff from Chestnut Health Systems, the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization, Stepping Stones, the Will County Executive’s Office of Substance Use Initiatives, the Will County Executive’s Office, the Will County Health Department and the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.