Editorial: Kane County's drug treatment initiative

More than two years ago, Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain announced an innovative idea to help people in the community who are struggling with addiction.

The plan calls for leasing 25,000 square feet of space at the sheriff's complex to an addiction treatment provider. The private entity then would transform two floors above the county jail into an inpatient drug treatment facility with 60 to 70 beds.

After working to adjust county zoning ordinances and state law to allow a treatment facility in the complex, the county is now seeking proposals from qualified providers.

We have said this before. Drug abuse is a significant problem in our suburbs. Treatment needs to be widely available here.

Hain understands that.

"In my time as a patrol deputy here," he said, "I saw the horrific effect that substance abuse and addiction had on people and its creation of all different types of crime."

The sheriff says 60% to 80% of the inmates at the county jail struggle with addiction issues. Treating addiction cuts costs, reduces crime and makes the community safer.

Meanwhile, residential treatment centers are scarce in Kane County and elsewhere in the suburbs. Hain saw the underutilized space above the jail as a way to address that.

"We were right in the middle of the opioid epidemic, as we still are," he said. "I thought what better than to have a residential treatment center right on top of the jail."

If the plan becomes a reality, jail inmates could receive treatment before re-entering the community. In addition, the facility's services would be available to all adult Kane County residents.

"This is for anyone in the community," Hain said.

Kane County officials already have taken steps to drive down drug addiction, crime and death rates.

One county initiative encourages people struggling with drug addiction to get the support they need without fear of being arrested. The "A Way Out" program connects residents with local rehabilitative resources and treatment centers.

Hain says that and other county programs are making a difference. Still, an inpatient drug treatment facility would allow Kane County to make even more progress.

The opioid crisis in the suburbs has steadily deepened in recent years. Opening a treatment center inside the Kane County sheriff's complex will help save lives. Hopefully, the county finds the right partner to open a facility.

The initiative could be a model for other suburban counties, and we applaud it.

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