DuPage task force hands out $110,000 for substance-abuse prevention, treatment programs

Four programs received $110,000 from DuPage County on Friday to fight substance abuse and mental health problems.

Gateway Foundation received $20,330 to introduce a low-energy neurofeedback system treatment.

Serenity House Counseling Services Inc. received $32,745 for prevention education for people in middle school, high school and college.

The 516 Light Foundation's Sober Home Hope received $10,000 for people who need financial help to live in sober living homes.

A team led by Serenity House received $50,000 for its Teen Ambassador Project. It will pay to develop teenage volunteers who will work to prevent their peers from using drugs and alcohol, promote mental wellness, and reduce the stigma about substance abuse and mental health. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a partner.

The grants were distributed by the DuPage County Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education Task Force, a joint operation of the county board and the county's board of health.

"After you leave the jail or you leave the treatment, what do you do next?" Dr. Lanny Wilson, co-chairman of the task force, said of the need for sober living housing. In sober living, people early in their recovery receive supportive services and learn skills to cope with addiction.

"In the past, this (addiction) was kind of kept in the closet, and nobody wanted to do anything for these folks," Wilson said. But people with addiction disease should receive treatment equal to that received by people for any other disease, he said.

The DuPage County Board put $200,000 in the fiscal year 2021-22 budget for HOPE's work.

"It was important to me to double the allocation for the HOPE task force," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "I will not go back."

Cronin's term ends in December.

More grants will be made later in the year, task force co-chairman Greg Hart said. Hart is a county board member and running for the Republican nomination for county board chairman.

"We continue to hear the need to both invest in and continue prioritizing substance abuse health disorder issues as a top priority," said Karen Ayala, executive director of the DuPage County Health Department.

Hart said there were 102 fatal opioid overdoses in 2021 in the county, 9% fewer than the year before. Overall, there were 137 drug overdose deaths.

Gateway's program will use electroencephalograms to record patterns of patients' brain waves, looking for abnormal patterns. Then a therapist can help a client learn to regulate those brain waves.

It can relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, attention deficits and emotional disturbances, which are common in people who have substance abuse disorder.

The projects will serve primarily DuPage residents, Hart said, from June 2022 to June 2023.

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