In light of the recent rise in overdoses and overdose deaths in Will County, County Executive Larry Walsh wants to remind residents of two important programs available to those battling substance use disorder: Safe Passage and the Narcan Distribution Program.

“We have worked with our partners across the county to set up these lifesaving programs for people who are battling addiction,” Walsh said. “Dr. Kathleen Burke, director of substance use initiatives, continues to distribute and train anyone and everyone on the use of Narcan and works with our participating police departments through the Safe Passage program to get people into treatment.”

Last weekend, nine people overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl in Joliet and Lockport. Five people in Joliet and one in Lockport died from these overdoses due to extreme potency of fentanyl. “People do not know what they are using and continue to use at their accustomed levels,” Dr. Burke said. “Because fentanyl is 50 times stronger than cocaine or heroin, people are dying. Substance use is a chronic disease that can be treated but people need to reach out for help.”

Dr. Burke is offering free Narcan to anyone who needs it. She can train family members, any local organization, or anyone from the general public about addiction, the opiate crisis, and how to administer Narcan, or naloxone, a powerful antidote that can reverse the effects of an overdose.

“We want to get Narcan into the hands of as many people as possible,” she said. “Overdoses can happen anywhere at any time so the more Narcan available in our communities, the more lives that can be saved. The Good Samaritan Law protects bystanders who render aid to a person suffering an overdose so I urge people to get trained and carry Narcan.” She can be reached at [email protected].

Due to challenges for people accessing treatment, Will County has worked with local police department and the Sheriff’s office to create Safe Passage, a program that directly connect people who don’t have insurance to treatment. Participants simple go to the partnering police department and ask for help. After a simple interview, which includes a warrant check and search, the participant will be escorted to treatment through Family Guidance Centers. Lockport police Chief Terry Lemming says, “We have learned addiction is a disease and must be treated not punished.”

Participating police stations currently offering Safe Passage include, Braidwood, Elwood, Lemont, Lockport, Mokena, New Lenox, Park Forest, Romeoville, Shorewood and the Will County Sheriff on Laraway Road.