Kane sheriff hopefuls differ on how to fight heroin, opioid abuse
Last year, 67 people in Kane County died of heroin and opioid-related drug overdoses -- more than one a week.
And the state's attorney's office has teamed with other area state's attorneys in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.
Four people seeking their respective party's nomination for sheriff on March 20 agree heroin and opioid abuse is a growing problem, but have differing views on how to combat it.
Sheriff Don Kramer is seeking his second term as sheriff but must fend off a challenge by Sgt. Kevin Tindall, who also is seeking the Republican nomination.
Sgt. Ron Hain and Lt. Willie M. Mayes Sr., who lost in November 2014 to Kramer, are seeking the Democratic nomination.
The winners square off in the Nov. 6 general election, with the victor taking office in December.
Kramer said he doesn't see a way to "solve" the opioid crisis, but the community can fight back beginning with education.
"Parents, youth, the community, and even the police don't understand the severity of this crisis. In my opinion, heroin is a death sentence to the majority of individuals who decide to use heroin, or even other opioids," he said. "We can't arrest our way out of the opioid crisis, but we can identify and interrupt the supply of illegal drugs, while trying to provide alternative sentencing options to offenders."
Tindall said the biggest gap to fill is obtaining information on people who possess, share, sell or manufacture drugs.
"The sheriff's office needs to become involved, and invested with its community partners. ... Developing the relationships with pre-hospital care providers, hospitals, and the health department, but also through the schools and working with community programs," Tindall said.
Hain favors creating government-operated, in-custody residential treatment locations for nonviolent opioid addicts. Under his plan, people would work an eight-hour day, get four to five hours of counseling and rehab and have earnings placed in a savings account so they can contribute to their own care.
"The largest gap is created by antiquated investigative tactics and a failure to treat and redirect the addicted population," Hain said, noting he would resume interdiction efforts he began in 2007 and establish a hotline for people to report heroin activity.
Mayes, a 25-year veteran of the sheriff's department, says early intervention is key to stopping the cycle of abuse. He also wants to increase access to services and awareness. "We should be dealing with the misuse and abuse of it," he said.
Early voting runs until Feb. 26 at certain locations.