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Will County a recipient of substance abuse grant

Partnership with local organization to assist in heroin addiction recovery

The Will County Courthouse is seen in January 2015. The Will County judicial system is likely to partner with the Family Guidance Center in Joliet on a recovery program for heroin-addicted inmates.
The Will County Courthouse is seen in January 2015. The Will County judicial system is likely to partner with the Family Guidance Center in Joliet on a recovery program for heroin-addicted inmates.

JOLIET – Will County is in line for a large federal grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration aimed at helping inmates with substance abuse issues.

The county judicial system is looking to team up with the Family Guidance Center in Joliet on a new program that would seek out inmates of the Will County Jail and provide them ongoing counseling along with three shots – one each month – of vivitrol, a medication used to help prevent relapses.

Dr. Kathleen Burke, the county’s director of substance abuse initiatives, said Will County is one of five counties identified by the state as one in need due to the amount of heroin-related deaths in recent years. The county saw a record 77 heroin-related overdose deaths in 2016 and has almost 30 confirmed so far this year.

“It’s a fabulous program for getting people who are leaving jail – whether they’re on bond or they’re getting discharged – immediately into treatment, because more people die within two weeks of leaving jail than any other time,” Burke said.

The two-year grant could bring upwards of $500,000 to the county, which would supplement its specialty court system that includes courts dedicated to Adult Redeploy Illinois, drug abuse, veterans and mental health.

“If we make the right use of it, it’s something I would expect that will continue on,” Will County Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt said, adding judicial leadership would like to hit the ground running in July to provide help as quickly as possible to people who need and deserve the program.

Darren Bennefield, R-Aurora, chairman of the Will County Board’s judicial committee, said the grant ties into the county’s Stepping Up initiatives to help curb substance abuse.

Burke said the Family Guidance program would use medical assisted treatment, meaning people are provided medication to assist them in recovery. Vivitrol, Suboxone and methadone are three medications used to aid in addiction recovery.

But the medications are used longer than three months. After the first three months, people will have to use Medicaid to get their monthly vivitrol shots.

As Burke explained, the human brain makes opiates – endorphins – but when addicted to a substance such as heroin, it stops making them. When a person stops using heroin, the brain needs to heal before it can make opiates again.