Stigma Keeps People SilencedAnnounced on October 9, 2017 4:11 pm
Fighting substance abuse and overdoses one program at a time
As substance abuse and overdoses continue to spike nationally and locally, several Lake County agencies and organizations will present an awareness forum on the issue in Lake Zurich later this month.
Chelsea Laliberte, co-founder of the Lake County Opioid Initiative, said that Lake County and surrounding areas have seen substance use disorders “skyrocket, affecting our entire population including young children and the elderly.”
The panel forum will be held Oct. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Foglia YMCA to help raise awareness of the increase in substance use and its relationship to the overall health of individuals, families and the community. The event is free and open to the public.
The panel will feature representatives from NiCasa Behavioral Health Services, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, Live4Lali, the Lake County Opioid Initiative, the Gateway Foundation and the Lake County Coroner’s Office, as well as local people in recovery from substance use disorders.
Discussion will include insight into the growing pandemic through education on addiction, prevention, early detection, harm reduction, intervention, treatment options and resources available. The panel will also conduct a question and answer discussion, and provide literature and references to take home.
Those who wish to attend are asked to register by calling 847-438-5300. The Foglia YMCA is located at 1025 N. Old McHenry Road, Lake Zurich.
Laliberte, who also founded Live4Lali, an addiction resource and recovery services group, said it is important to hold such events in all areas of Lake County, especially those that generate a high number of overdose calls.
“I commend the Foglia YMCA for acknowledging there is a very serious problem that no one is immune from —especially in a community like Lake Zurich that has one of the highest overdose death rates in Lake County — and giving community members the appropriate information and tools to address it in their homes, workplaces and neighborhoods,” Laliberte said.
Such events help tear down the stigma that can get in the way of necessary educational programs and recovery resources available, she said.
“Stigma surrounding substance use and overdose has fueled the opioid epidemic,” Laliberte said. “Stigma keeps people who struggle with substance use disorders and their families ashamed, silenced and unsafe.”
On another front, supporters — including law enforcement officials — hope to turn a “harm reduction” pilot program that included a monthly needle exchange, rapid HIV and hepatitis tests and other srvices, all free of charge, into a permanent program.
The pilot program, held near the Round Lake Park Police Department from June through early October, also offered the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone, voluntary counseling and information on addiction recovery.
Run by Live4Lali and the Lake County Health Department, 65 people attended the two-hour-per-month pilot program during its first three months, Laliberte said. Supporters include State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, Sheriff Mark Curran, Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper and Round Lake Beach Police Chief George Filenko, who took program training and worked as a volunteer during the pilot events.
“I went in with a lot of questions, and they were answered,” Filenko said.
He said that while his department and others aggressively pursue narcotics enforcement, “that’s just one part of it. We’re trying to break the cycle,” he said. “These are individuals, children of parents and parents of children who have an addiction.”
Filenko said enforcement alone does not offer those who need help a way to find permanent sobriety. He said he was especially pleased to see that as the pilot events moved forward, more and more of those who attended were taking recovery literature with them and asking questions about recovery options.
Nerheim echoed Filenko’s views, stressing that the program is not intended to encourage drug use — a charge often leveled at needle exchange efforts, for example — but to serve as a form of outreach to help save lives and hopefully lead some to recovery.
Laliberte also said there is no research or data that points to needle exchange or Naloxone programs as leading to increased or new drug use. She said the goal now is to identify a source of county funding that will allow the program to become permanent.
“We need funding and an actual government-supported program,” she said.
Laliberte said that Live4Lali can help those in need of the services that were provided by the pilot program, and people can get more information by calling 844.LV4.LALI or visiting Info@Live4Lali.org.
According to statistics provided by the Lake County Coroner’s Office, overdose fatalities over the past three years have most often often involved heroin, cocaine or fentanyl, or a combination of those and other drugs. Other recurring drugs related to fatalities included morphine, anti-anxiety drugs such as clonazepam and diazepam, hydrocodone, amphetamines and even substances used for huffing.
Virtually all areas of the county are represented to a certain extent, with concentrated cases located in some areas such as Waukegan, North Chicago and the Round Lake. Overdose fatalities were also reported in lower numbers since 2015 in some of the county’s most affluent communities, including Lake Forest and Hawthorn Woods.