It takes creativity, will to combat opioid abuse

  • George Filenko

    George Filenko

By George Filenko
Guest columnist
Posted9/8/2019 1:00 AM

There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to opioid overdose deaths.

Recently, our community experienced two deaths within days. Both victims knew each other, and all indications are they were aware of the risks involved.


On Aug. 16, a 44-year-old Chicago woman was transported to Condell Hospital in Libertyville and later pronounced dead.

On Aug. 18, officers responded to the same address for a report of a non-responsive male subject. The 44-year-old Round Lake Park resident was pronounced dead at the scene.

We are doing a better job at keeping statistics regarding substance abuse and the harm it causes. The question is, are we putting a dent in the sales, consumption and deaths attributed to overdoses?

Breakdowns in the system that was set up locally to address this problem have begun to steadily rise.

Police officers who are on the front lines are questioning problems that affect programs put in place to save lives and provide options for treatment.

For example, a few weeks ago, an entire family knocked on the door of our police department in Round Lake Park seeking assistance for a family member. The police officer who tried to help was told by Health Department officials that they couldn't provide any assistance because of out-of-state insurance issues.

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Walking into a police department to ask for this type of help is no easy task. On a Saturday night at 10:30 p.m., someone had summoned the courage to finally take a step toward recovery, but was turned away because of bureaucracy.

To the credit of the officer on duty that night, she did not merely accept no for an answer. She tried every avenue possible to get this individual help. I contacted some of my former colleagues on the Lake County Opioid Task Force, and with the help of Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, Live for Lali and Gateway Foundation, we got this individual assistance within 24 hours.

As police, finding ourselves in the position of being told we can't offer that help is disastrous in so many ways.

The initial reason I became involved in the overdose problem was because my community as well as other financially challenged communities were experiencing consistent increases in overdose deaths.

Often ignored because of demographics and socioeconomic factors, we found no one was listening.

I was fortunate to team up with several individuals who did listen and were genuinely committed to recognizing this increasing problem. In the blink of an eye this became a "national crisis."

I sincerely believe that the original founders of our local program are still committed to its success. I'm not certain how committed the rest of the system is.

George Filenko is police chief of Round Lake Park, former commander of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and chief executive officer for the blog

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