June 29, 2016

Health Department Takes the Next Step to Address the Regional Opioid Crisis: The Expansion of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Services

To address the growing number of Lake County residents struggling with opioid addictions, the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is doubling the capacity of its Medication-Assisted Treatment program. It is expanding treatment to 200 people struggling with opioid addictions through a grant of $325,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

“The expansion of our MAT program is an essential next step in the regional effort to address the opioid epidemic, which has had a devastating impact on local families and their communities,” said Mark Pfister, the Health Department’s interim Executive Director. “The expansion of this program is imperative to helping people change addictive behaviors for the long-term.”

The population of residents in need of substance abuse services has substantially increased in Lake County in alignment with national trends. In 1998, the county had 30 deaths that were attributed to substance abuse. By 2010, that number had more than tripled to 92. Opioid related deaths in 2008 were 47 and increased in 2015 to 58. Heroin-related deaths in 2008 were 30 and increased in 2015 to 42.

For decades, the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center has been the primary provider of substance abuse services for residents in the county. Its services include screening brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT), in-patient detox and rehabilitation services, outpatient substance abuse counseling, medication-assisted treatment and women’s residential services. It established an Outpatient Substance Abuse program in the 1970s to address a growing population of residents with substance abuse concerns. The program provided both drug-free treatment as well as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using methadone and Suboxone to treat opioid addiction.

In 2014 the Health Department, in concert with the Lake County Opioid Initiative (LCOI), began an initiative to save people who had overdosed on opioids. The Health Department’s actions included:
  • Instructing law enforcement officers on how to administer naloxone, a drug that temporarily reverses the effect of an opioid to people who had overdosed, using a train the trainer approach.
  • Securing a donation of $1.4 million of auto-injectable naloxone from Virginia-based kalĂ©o, enough for police officers across Lake County to carry the product in their squad cars. The first save occurred on Christmas day of 2014 and since then there have been more than 90 lives saved. Officers of 39 local police departments as well as the Sheriff’s Office now carry naloxone in their cars. 
  • Providing free naloxone training to patients and friends and family members of patients, and to nurses in school settings. 
In addition to the increase of treatment slots for the MAT program, the Substance Abuse Program (SAP) at 3004 Grand Avenue in Waukegan has been designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) allowing the Health Department to bill for the services it provides. This is critical to supporting the long term sustainability of the program. The 3004 location will become the Health Department’s ninth health center. Through the HRSA grant and the FQHC designation, the program will be able to:
  • Provide prescriptions for methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol along with primary care, substance abuse counseling and supportive services
  • Increase medical provider hours
  • Add substance abuse counselors
  • Add a licensed clinical social worker to act as a care manager
The Health Department will continue to provide information and training to providers and members of law enforcement as it increases its prevention efforts in response to this public health crisis. Continuing to educate providers will be critical in curbing the increase in addiction locally, regionally, and nationally. Countywide collaborations continue to help address the immediate needs of residents and will continue to help shape the agency’s response. The expansion of MAT would not be possible without partnerships, especially the Health Department’s collaboration with the Lake County Opioid Initiative, Nicasa, and others. To inquire about registering for the MAT program, call: (847) 377-8120.

June 23, 2016


The end of the school year brings with it memorable events such as Prom and Graduation. Unfortunately, with these events also come concerns about underage drinking.

Throughout this season, businesses throughout Lake County saw teens entering their stores attempting to purchase alcohol. This was part of a county-wide effort to continue promoting positive practices by stores and restaurants that sell alcohol. Law enforcement agencies worked with local groups and young adults to see if they could purchase alcohol with identification that showed they were under 21.

“Consistency from community to community and monitoring underage drinking issues will help us be successful in addressing this problem and saving lives. Our desire is to see 100% compliance, but it is refreshing to see the majority of businesses realize the seriousness of this issue and did not sell alcohol to the underage participants.” commented Bruce Johnson, Chairman of the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force.

Sale of alcohol to a person under 21 years of age is illegal under local and State laws and is a
Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, fine or probation.

Liquor compliance checks are part of an initiative by the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force which was formed to combine the efforts of the Lake County Chiefs of Police Association and the Lake County After School Coalition in the prevention of underage consumption of alcohol and drug use. This group is made up of a diverse group of citizens including community members, parents, law enforcement personnel and other professionals.

Department Checks Violations
Bannockburn 2 0
Barrington 10 1
Buffalo Grove 19 1
Deerfield 10 0
Grayslake 10 0
Gurnee 49 0
Highland Park 15 2
Kildeer 13 1
Lake Bluff 3 1
Lake Forest 10 0
Lake Zurich 40 1
Lincolnshire 20 0
Mundelein 15 1
Riverwoods 3 0
Vernon Hills 50 0
Total 269 8


June 13, 2016

Increase in Drug Overdoses Contributes to Rising U.S. Death Rate: Report

USA map icon with a syringe
A rise in drug overdoses contributed to the increasing U.S. death rate last year, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The death rate increased for the first time in a decade, The New York Times reports.

The overall death rate increased to 729.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, up from 723.2 in 2014.

The CDC found the death rate for drug overdoses increased to 15.2 per 100,000 people in the second quarter of 2015, compared with 14.1 in the second quarter the previous year. The rate for unintentional injuries, which include drug overdoses and car accidents, increased to 42 per 100,000 in the third quarter last year, up from 39.9 in the same quarter the previous year.

More people also died from suicide and Alzheimer’s disease last year, the report found. The findings are preliminary, and are not broken down by race, the article notes.

In January, The New York Times reported the rising death rate of young white adults in the United States is being driven by drug overdoses. In contrast, the death rate for young black Americans is falling.

The findings came from an analysis of almost 60 million death certificates collected by the CDC between 1990 and 2014. Death rates for non-Hispanic whites rose or flattened for all adult age groups under 65, especially in women.

The overdose death rate for whites ages 25 to 34 in 2014 was five times its level in 1999. Among whites ages 35 to 44, the overdose rate tripled during those years. The analysis included deaths from illegal and prescription drugs.

In November 2015, a study found the death rate of white middle-aged Americans is on the rise, driven in large part because of drug and alcohol overdoses, suicide, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver.