DeKALB – A DeKalb County program is in the works to help opioid addicts become productive members of society, rather than put them in jail.
Opioid drug overdoses have killed more people in Illinois than all gun-related causes, including homicide, suicide and accidental shootings, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. To address the issue, county officials and medical professionals will attend a panel, “Combating the Opioid Epidemic,” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fatty’s Pub & Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb. The event, hosted by NIU STEM Outreach, is free and open to the public.
DeKalb police Cmdr. Steve Lekkas said he and DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato will reveal the drug turn-in initiative modeled after Safe Passage – Opiate Addiction Program in Lee County, through which opioid addicts are placed for treatment and given more avenues to recover, rather than putting them into jail.
Panelists for the event include Lekkas, Amato, Northern Illinois police Sgt. Joseph Pzybyla, Matthew Strong of the NIU Rehabilitation Counseling Program, Laura Emily Meyer-Junco of UIC Rockford College of Pharmacy, and Cindy Graves, a registered nurse with the DeKalb County Health Department.
“Every panelist will be able to shed light on the opioid drug problem,” Lekkas said. “We have a wide range of backgrounds, and we all have dealt with the issue in some form, whether it be out on the field, in court or in the hospital.”
Amato said he hopes to use the Lee County program as a blueprint. He added he’s worked extensively with former Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss, who was recently named Dixon’s city manager. Safe Passage launched Sept. 1, 2015, in Lee County. Since then, 165 opioid addicts have been placed in treatment, and about 30 have come from Ogle, Bureau, DeKalb and Stephenson counties, according to Langloss.
Lekkas said community education is an essential part of making the program work.
“I think the most important part is getting the needed support for these types of programs and initiatives,” Lekkas said. “It’ll be an opportunity for our community to actively support and help these programs.”