The number of opioid deaths has risen steadily in recent years in Will County, but officials at a forum on the issue said progress had been made in addressing a so-called "public health crisis"
a year In 2017, Coroner Office Will County reported the highest number of deaths associated with heroin and fentanyl – a stronger synthetic opioid – 85 versus 78 in the previous year.
"It's easy to be discouraged, but progress has been made, your work has been worthwhile, it has saved lives," Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Will County's 7 th Annual Hero Helps Community Summit Was Sponsored The Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization, Will County Heroin Education leads to preventative solutions and the Southwest Coalition on Substance Abuse issues this past Friday in Edward Hospital Athletic and Convention Center in Romeoville
Several speakers pointed to efforts by Will County and the state of Illinois to address this opioid epidemic at many levels, finding that there will be community-wide efforts to resolve this crisis.
Emphasized speaker Laura Porter outlined how the "accumulation" of negative childhood experiences from one generation to the next can lead to health problems, drug abuse. Suicide, Unemployment, Homelessness and Divorce
This "vicious circle" can be broken by a caring community, but it will require a "cultural change," she said 659002] "Communities are powerful," said Porter, and she called the people to be kind, to help one another, and to support those "who are difficult to support."
"We can change our dealings with each other by day, we can create a culture with much less adversity," she said.
Cindy Davis, a social worker who visited the forum for the first time, said after hearing Porter, she believes "there is hope." [1
Lieutenant Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, co-chair of the Illinois Opioid Task Force, said the group's goal is to reduce opioid deaths by one-third in three years.
The statistics are "frightening, shocking, & c "It's hurtful," she said, citing more than 63,000 Americans overdose over drugs last year – most of them from opioids and prescription painkillers.
In Illinois, opioids killed twice as many people as vehicle accidents, she said
"It is imperative that we act as one community," she said.
Other members of the Task Force, dr. Shah and Maria Bruni, assistant secretary for programs of the Illinois Department of Human Services, underscored their recent efforts in the state that:
- Recently expanded access to care for Medicaid recipients by allowing Medicaid to pay for critical services previously unrecoverable by the State Program. The state also received a waiver to increase the limit of 15 beds in a treatment facility.
- Setting up a 24/7 hotline 833-234-6343 to provide help and information to those in need.
- Mandatory Prescription
- Accompanied Opioids in 7 Instead of 30 Days
- Began a Pilot Program for Drug Treatment of Prison Inmates with Drug Abuse
Will County was part of this effort and out of 78 inmates who have been released all but one filed a treatment plan, officials said.
The county also has:
- Trained 200 people to use Narcan, an opiate antidote.
- Working with Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox is the county's first hospital to participate in the "warm hand-off" program, which involves counselors and rehabilitation trainers deploying an emergency patient into drug abuse.
- Helps to introduce Safe Passage programs in the region to police departments where people with substance abuse can seek treatment without treatment.
- Accession of other districts to file lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies.
- 17 people prosecuted for drug killings in the past seven years.  Barton Firzpatrick of the Optimal Healthcare Group in Chicago, who has been serving opioid patients for 20 years, said he liked the "collaboration" Will County in combating this problem.
"We do not have county in Cook," he said.
"We have made great strides, but we need to continue working together to find a solution to this terrible problem," said Wills County executive Larry Walsh. He founded HELPS after meeting Brian Kirk and John Roberts, who lost their sons Matt and Billy to a heroin addiction.
Since his son's funeral in 2009, Kirk said his goal was to raise awareness of the problem
"We did not want other parents to go through that," he said.
He teamed with Roberts to found HERO, and held his first event eight years ago, reading information in the Menards car park in Homer Glen. The following year, Will County joined the effort that is now pulling hundreds to this annual summit.
"We believe we made a difference, we have made progress in raising awareness, but the problem has gotten worse, there are more deaths from fentanyl now," he said.
According to Dr. Shah remains to Fentanyl a "growing threat".
"Fentanyl causes more deaths than prescription opioids for the first time". he said.
"We have seen a ten-fold increase in fentanyl-related deaths, the threat can not be overstated, with heroin death occurs within hours, fentanyl can kill within minutes," Shah added.
He encouraged the crowd to "persevere".
"It's a long way to go, we need to keep making progress, and I ask you to stick with it," Shah said.