The Lake County Opioid Initiative (LCOI) today reported its achievements and the positive impact of its programming on the citizens of Lake County, regionally, and nationally. Recognized by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Lake County Opioid Initiative 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 has developed groundbreaking programs, of which two focus on public safety as critical change agents in the fight against opioid addiction and overdose.

The LCOI has reached a milestone in its “A Way Out” program. The 100th beneficiary of this program has been routed into treatment and is on his/her way to recovery. 100 individuals have taken advantage of this innovative program that continues to save lives and serves as a recommended model to be replicated across the nation.

“What has made ‘A Way Out’ so successful in this first year is the collaboration between Lake County partners. The decision to enter treatment is perhaps one of the most difficult for a person struggling with a substance use disorder. ‘A Way Out’ provides a direct path to help as a person takes that first step, and the program provides support navigating challenges that can become a barrier to accessing treatment,” said Karen Wolownik-Albert, Executive Director at Gateway Foundation Lake Villa.

By taking advantage of “A Way Out”, an Illinois Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program participants and their loved ones are given the opportunity for access help and treatment to end the destructive cycle that substance abuse, dependency or 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. The only requirement of participants is their self-motivation to seek recovery.

“This program is a prime example of what can be accomplished when leaders from the public and private sector work together to bring real solutions to an issue that effects our entire community,” said Lake County State’s Attorney Michael G. Nerheim and Cofounder of the Lake County Opioid Initiative.

A Way Out is available 24 hours a day at participating police departments 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.

Participants can locate one of the participating police departments, walk through the main entrance, and inform the staff that they are looking for “A Way Out”. Information and instructions can be found at

“Addiction is a disease. ‘A Way Out’ treats it like one. We want to help people struggling with substance abuse, not arrest them,” said Chief Eric Guenther of the Mundelein Police Department.

Thanks to Gateway Foundation, the Lake County Health Department and the participating police departments, the LCOI has created a participant profile based off of ongoing data collection. The 2016 ‘A Way Out’ program data has been captured below.

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.

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