DuPage County awards $125,000 in grants to help fight opioid epidemic
DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen had grim, but not surprising, news to share on Friday: Drug overdose deaths so far this year are on par to match those in 2020, which was a record year.
So for the fourth year in a row, the Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education Taskforce has given money to agencies and programs that help addicts.
"We have not turned this ship around. It is continuing to get worse," Jorgensen said during a Friday news conference in Wheaton. The money for the grants came from the DuPage County budget.
"This COVID-19 pandemic has consumed our lives and our attention the last 18 months," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "But our fight against the opioid epidemic has never wavered."
The task force gave $37,000 to the Haymarket Center Chicago for "Together DuPage," where it will have a recovery coach/drug counselor work with the DuPage County jail to help soon-to-be and recently released detainees.
Project "Hope for Healing" received $32,000 to start a harm-reduction mobile unit program in conjunction with Inspiration Outreach and Live4Lali. They will provide HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, medication-assisted opioid treatment, naloxone, safe drug injection supplies, safe sex supplies, food, toiletries, water and more.
NAMI DuPage received $31,000 to have a twice-a-month support group for people diagnosed with both drug addiction and mental health issues.
Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital received $25,000 to add hours to its community linkage specialist program. The specialist connects patients to community providers, including those that help with finding housing or sober living and medication-assisted treatment.
In 2020, the task force gave out nearly $75,000 to three programs. In 2019, it gave out $100,000 to three programs; and in 2018, it gave $100,000 to two programs.
Jorgensen, who is a member of the task force, said his office has handled 56 overdose deaths this year. At least 10 of them were people who had deliberately killed themselves, he said.
He also said the pharmacology of overdoses has changed since he sounded the alarm in 2013 about the increase in heroin deaths in DuPage. Fentanyl started showing up around 2015. Now toxicology tests have been finding as many as 15 drugs in people's bodies, including heroin, multiple fentanyl formulations and cocaine.