Lake County Health Department gets $3.4 million in grants for mental health, addiction services

  • Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department

    Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department

  • Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim

    Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim

Updated 10/11/2018 4:28 PM

The Lake County Health Department has been awarded four federal grants totaling $3.4 million to expand mental health and addiction services.

"These grants will enable us to provide treatment and support to more Lake County residents," said Mark Pfister, the health department's executive director.


One grant, from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will provide $2 million over five years to increase services for homeless people.

The health department and PADS Lake County will team to better serve people suffering from both mental illness and addiction and who are either homeless or in danger of being homeless.

"Hundreds of people that experience homelessness each year have either a mental illness or a substance use disorder, and (they) often struggle with both," said Joel Williams, executive director of PADS Lake County. "The barriers that they face in getting out of homelessness and back into housing are therefore more complex and difficult to overcome."

The health department will provide psychiatry services, counseling and case management. Additionally, clients will be directed to services for housing, drug treatment, crisis care, medical care or other needs.

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PADS will use its portion of the grant to hire a part-time outreach worker who'll locate homeless people with mental health and addiction issues and try to get them into appropriate programs, Williams said.

A grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will provide $375,000 over three years to expand a mental health first-aid training program. People who receive the training will, in turn, teach community members how to identify and address mental health issues and refer people to appropriate treatment.

A U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration grant will provide $514,000 over two years to expand medication-assisted drug treatment services.

The health department will hire two additional substance abuse counselors and improve the program's main office in Waukegan, which will allow the program to reach more clients.


A grant from the U.S. Justice Department will direct $500,000 to the county's A Way Out program. That effort, launched by the Lake County Opioid Initiative, allows drug users to seek treatment simply by asking for help at a participating police station.

The health department provides screening and finds appropriate treatment.

The grant will allow the department to hire a dedicated program coordinator, an additional crisis care program counselor and an employee who will provide support and follow-up with participants and their families.

"These are the first full-time staffers dedicated to A Way Out," said Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim, one of the program's chief advocates. "It is exciting to think what we will be able to accomplish with full-time resources dedicated to this program."

Nearly 500 people have entered A Way Out since it launched in 2016. With the new staff members, officials hope to help 400 new clients over the next two years.

Additionally, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science will evaluate the A Way Out program's effectiveness and monitor long-term outcomes.

"While I consider it a success every time somebody is provided access to treatment, we really want to see what kind of long-term impact we are making," Nerheim said.

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