(The Center Square) – With the opioid crisis and overdoses at a record level in Cook County, a Treatment Not Trauma initiative approved by the county Board of Commissioners seeks to stem the tide.
The initiative provides up to $1.5 million from the county’s Opioid Settlement Special Purpose Fund to help lower overdoses.
In an interview with The Center Square, Commissioner Kevin Morrison from the 15th District talked about the urgency of the board’s action, considering a staggering death toll.
“We saw our highest loss of life due to overdose last year alone, which totaled over 2,000 individuals,” he said.
Morrison said opioids like heroin and fentanyl are responsible for approximately six overdoses every single day in Cook County.
“This is a significant increase. That is the highest year on record,” he said.
Besides boosting access to addiction treatment and mental health care, the initiative will make it easier for residents to get naloxone, an overdose antagonist.
“As many I’m sure are aware, Narcan has the ability to reverse an overdose,” he said.
The goal is to have the antagonist available at county buildings and hospitals for the public to use, Morrison said.
Not only would naloxone be free to save a life, but Morrison said there’s discussion of adding vending machines for convenient access.
While heroin is a killer, fentanyl is even more deadly. Morrison said it can be deceptively laced with other drugs like cocaine, through marijuana vaping cartridges and even nicotine in black market cartridges.
“Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that is four times more addictive and significantly stronger than heroin,” he said. “You need a far smaller dose to get even a stronger high off of fentanyl, and it is so incredibly easy to overdose.”
Not only free naloxone, but expanded mental health and recovery services are part of the Treatment Not Trauma initiative, he said.
Morrison, who lost a step brother to an overdose on his 21st birthday, said that Treatment Not Trauma is an important approach.
“Showing support and not causing shame on these individuals is a critical component to beating this epidemic,” he said.