DeKALB – Northern Illinois University Police Cmdr. Joseph Przybyla said opioid abuse shows no socioeconomic, racial or gender patterns, and users don't fit any sort of mold, which is why it's important to offer diversion programs and other services to those in need.
Therefore, Przybyla and five other county officials explained the different services they offer or hope to offer to stem the number of opioid-related abusers and fatal overdoses in DeKalb County on Tuesday at Fatty's Pub & Grille in DeKalb.
DeKalb Cmdr. Steve Lekkas said people often have the mentality that they might get into trouble if they call the police to report an overdose, so they don't provide all of the necessary details or clean up the scene before officers arrive.
In response to this, Lekkas talked about an amnesty law that recently was passed that will prevent someone from being charged with possession, depending on the amount of drugs being carried, if he or she calls 911 to report an overdose.
“It's important that we're putting a lot of attention to a very important topic that's kind of been in the dark for a long time,” Lekkas said.
Lekkas said one effort the department is looking to enact is the Heroin Opioid Prevention and Education, or HOPE, program, which helps to fast-track treatment services to opioid users who might not have insurance or who experience other limitations.
The hope is to start a pilot program with this service by the spring. One of the setbacks to programs like this, however, is that there is not enough bed space to treat as many users as possible, Lekkas said.
DeKalb County State's Attorney Rick Amato said the opioid problem is not something that law enforcement can arrest its way into resolving. Both he and Lekkas also clarified that users are treated much differently than dealers.
Although street drugs such as heroin were a focus, Laura Meyer-Junco of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy discussed potential abuse of pharmaceutical drugs.
Meyer-Junco said that in 2012, enough opioids were being prescribed that every adult in the nation could have a bottle in their home at any given time, even if they did not suffer from a pain problem.
About 25 percent of people who use opioids for nonmedical purposes get them from a prescriber.
Therefore, she said, she would like to see more prescription verification for those who might be abusing pain medication.