The Lake County Opioid Initiative (LCOI) today reported an expansion of its groundbreaking law enforcement pre-arrest diversion program, A Way Out. Four new agencies have been added as entrance sites including Deerfield Police Department, Fox Lake Police Department, Zion Police Department, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. A Way Out co-coordinator and Mundelein Director of Public Safety, Eric Guenther said, “A Way Out has far exceeded anyone’s expectations. This is a direct result of diligent teamwork, but most importantly because the individuals utilizing this program have placed their faith and trust in us.”

By taking advantage of A Way Out, participants and their loved ones are given the opportunity to access support and treatment to end the destructive cycle that addiction has caused in their lives. Participants are given the chance to avoid the biological, psychological and environmental harms, and are set on a direct course to recovery through services provided by Gateway Foundation, Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, the Lake County Health Department’s Substance Abuse Program and other providers across northern Illinois and the state. The only requirement of participants is self-motivation. Karen Wolownik Albert, Gateway Foundation, Executive Director-Lake County Treatment Services said, “For persons struggling with a Substance Use Disorder, the decision to seek help can be scary. Navigating the challenges of finding an available treatment resources can be daunting, and many people may give up. A Way Out guides and supports persons through the process of accessing treatment and taking those first steps toward recovery. We are so fortunate in Lake County to have a multidisciplinary network of individuals and organizations working collaboratively to end overdose and provide assistance to persons struggling with Substance Use Disorders.”

Since the launch of A Way Out in June 2016, 170 people were connected to treatment and recovery programs. A Way Out graduate, Danya Vasquez said, “It is impossible to measure the value of the lives that this program has saved and the lives that it continues to save. Allowing people like me the opportunity to receive treatment without fear of incarceration is beneficial to everyone. A Way Out literally saved my life.”

A Way Out is available 24 hours a day at participating police agencies across Lake County and ensures no criminal charges will be sought for those that may be in possession of narcotics or paraphernalia, as long as assistance is sought out by the prospective program participant. Individuals struggling with addiction to any substance or who are from outside of Lake County are eligible. Participants can locate a participating police agency, walk through the main entrance, and inform the staff that they are looking for A Way Out. After regular business hours (including weekends), participants can utilize the call box near the front door which will connect him/her to a dispatch operator who will them through the next steps.

The process for accessing care through the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is broader to accommodate for all unincorporated areas of the County as well as contract communities, and communities without a full-time law enforcement agency. During regular working hours, which are Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, participants may come to one of three Sheriff’s Office locations including:

  • 25 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Waukegan
  • 1301 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville – Call (847) 549-5200 to inform of intent to participate
  • 703 U.S. Rt. 12, Fox Lake – Call (847) 549-5200 to inform of intent to participate

The Sheriff’s staff will contact a deputy to work with the participant. If a participant reaches out for assistance and has no transportation, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office will dispatch a deputy to pick up the participant. After regular business hours, participants may call (847) 549-5200 and request A Way Out. A deputy will be dispatched to the participant’s location if no transportation is available.

Sheriff Mark Curran stated, “Unfortunately, most of us know of a family devastated by addiction. In most cases, family members endure suffering along with their addicted loved ones. As leaders in public safety, we continuously seek solutions that keep families intact and ensure jails house criminals, not people suffering from substance use disorders. We cannot cure addiction through arrests and incarceration, but, we can be a supportive link to services for those who are ready for help. A Way Out is a way into sobriety and self-sufficiency, one person at a time and one day at a time.”

Information and instructions can be found at or via the Lake County Helps app which is available for Android and IOS devices.

About Lake County Opioid Initiative:
The Lake County Opioid Initiative’s mission is to develop, implement, evaluate and sustain a multi-strategy county-wide effort to prevent opioid abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. LCOI was founded by Michael G. Nerheim, Lake County State’s Attorney, Chelsea Laliberte, Executive Director of Live4Lali, Bruce Johnson, CEO of Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, and George Filenko, Chief of the Round Lake Park Police Department.

Recognized by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and National Association of Counties (NACo), LCOI has achieved national acclaim as a collaborative, cutting edge, countywide task force developed to overturn the devastating effects caused by the opioid epidemic. Since its inception in 2013, LCOI retains a membership of more than 300 people across 80+ agencies, and has developed groundbreaking programs, of which two focus on public safety as critical change agents in the fight against addiction and overdose. Anyone can become a member of LCOI. Meetings are held the third Thursday of every month. For more information, please visit: or