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Local

Grundy County Sheriff's Office, other local agencies to offer Safe Passage program

Opioid pain medication and fentanyl patches can be seen at a Gardner woman's home last year.
Opioid pain medication and fentanyl patches can be seen at a Gardner woman's home last year.

The Grundy County Sheriff’s Office has elected to join many Will County law enforcement agencies in offering the Safe Passage program to help combat the opioid crisis.

Through the program, anyone who is suffering from an addiction can go into a participating police station and ask for help. The individual will be connected with a trained volunteer who will then personally escort the person to a licensed care facility.

Dr. Kathleen Burke, director of substance use initiatives in the Office of Will County Executive Larry Walsh, recently met with officers from the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office and several other local municipalities in Grundy County to provide an overview of the Will County Safe Passage Network, according to a news release from Walsh’s office.

Will County created a Safe Passage Network in 2017 at the request of police chiefs from Lockport, Mokena and Lemont. The pilot revealed challenges that were addressed before expanding the program to other law enforcement agencies, according to the release. The network has grown to include Braidwood, Romeoville, New Lenox, Shorewood and the Will County Sheriff’s Office.

Grundy County Sheriff Ken Briley reached out to Burke because of Will County’s expertise. Grundy County officials reported a jump in overdose deaths from three in 2017 to 17 in 2018. This dramatic increase prompted Briley to take action.

“This was an important priority for me when I was elected sheriff,” Briley said. “As a police officer in Minooka, I saw firsthand the impact of heroin and fentanyl abuse. I knew we had to find a way to help people struggling with addiction, not just arrest them.”

The Will County Safe Passage Network is working with Family Guidance Centers to provide a critical link to treatment available to the police departments 24 hours a day. This partnership allows a licensed counselor to determine the appropriate treatment needed and connect the participant with the proper care. This solution resolved Will County’s biggest challenge – accessing care for individuals with no insurance or Medicaid, Burke said.

“It takes everyone working together to reduce the number of overdose deaths,” Burke said. “We are anxious to replicate this program in police departments all over Will County. This model is not a burden on police resources.”

For information about the Grundy County Safe Passage program, contact Grundy County Sheriff’s Deputy Vic Elias at 815-942-6645 or 815-942-0336. Call Burke at 815-774-7486 for information in Will County.

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