Kane County may boost crime lab with opioid settlement cash
The early debate about how Kane County should spend any opioid settlement money began Thursday with some shared sentiment that at least the initial funds should stay with the county rather than sent to local drug addiction facilities.
The county committee controlling the money had its first organizational meeting Thursday. The committee membership consists of Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser, Sheriff Ron Hain, health department Executive Director Michael Isaacson, Democratic county board member Cheryl Strathmann and the lone Republican -- Coroner Rob Russell.
Isaacson will lead the committee. It, and not the county board, will have total control over the funds.
The county has about $1 million in opioid settlement money so far. Officials expect to directly receive about $3 million and plan to tap into the $1.3 billion the state will receive over the coming years.
Committee members didn't take formal action Thursday, but initial discussion favored using some or most of the initial $1 million to support the county's new forensic crime lab. The county uses a Pennsylvania-based lab for testing in cases of suspected drug overdoses. But it takes at least two weeks to receive a basic report and as long as 10 weeks for an in-depth review. Having a lab on site can slash that wait time to a day or two. And, if it offers services to other local governments, it could become a new revenue source for the county.
Kane County saw 78 opiate-related deaths in 2022, tying the recent high-water mark in 2012, according to Russell's latest annual report. Mosser will release her opioid report this month.
"We have seen a rise in drug cases, DUI cases and just general felonies and misdemeanors that deal with drug addiction and drug use," Mosser said. "Our law enforcement has had to increase the efforts they have out on the streets dealing with this. Our coroner continues to see a spike in deaths related to opiates. The health department has seen, in an unprecedented fashion, people seeking (addiction) services."
Mosser said using the funds to ramp up the crime lab will allow for swifter arrest and prosecution of drug dealers in overdose deaths.
"If the coroner cannot determine how a person died, and if that person died because of an overdose, he can't communicate that to law enforcement," Mosser said. "Law enforcement can't track down who was the person who gave the drugs to the person who overdosed, which could result in drug-induced homicide charges. The quicker we can do that, the quicker we can stop a drug dealer from negatively affecting others."
Mosser also said some of the future settlement money that comes in would be eligible for use by the health department or outside organizations involved in mental health and addiction treatment.