Efforts to fight opioid addiction continue to grow

April 11, 2019

The area’s efforts to curb and treat opioid addiction continue to grow.

The opioid epidemic’s footprint spans from large metros to small rural areas, and there’s an ongoing focus on the federal, state and local level for creating programs and providing funding to alleviate its spread.

Community leaders, law enforcement and health officials from a variety of organizations have been pursuing collaborative solutions aimed at the problem for the last few years and are looking at further ways to address gaps in services.

Recently, a full-time coordinator and recovery coach was hired for the Sauk Valley Safe Passage Initiative, and Sinnissippi Centers launched an awareness campaign for Narcan, a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.

The Sauk Valley’s Safe Passage Initiative launched in Dixon and Lee County in 2015 following a surge in heroin addiction and heroin-related deaths in the area – including a string of three deaths within a week.

The program, which has grown to more than 300 participants, was the first in the state and second in the nation.

Shortly after its launch, Safe Passage grew to include Sterling, Rock Falls, and Whiteside County, allowing addicts to approach law enforcement, hand over their drugs and go directly into treatment without being arrested.

Alison White started this week as the program’s full-time coordinator and recovery coach, and she will work closely with the participants, coordinate placement and transportation to treatment centers as well as recovery coach duties and case management for both Lee and Whiteside counties.

She will also work creating partnerships with businesses for job placement opportunities, finding housing options for those returning from treatment or recovery homes, and organizing community and school events to raise awareness for substance abuse disorders.

White, a recovered addict, was the one who first presented the Safe Passage concept in April 2015 to Lee County Sheriff John Simonton and City Manager Danny Langloss, who was Dixon police chief at the time.

She volunteered with the program from the start and was a recovery coach for Safe Harbor of Lee County as well as the organizer of the city’s Opiate Recovery Group. White also is a member of the PRISM of Lee County Board of Directors, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northern Illinois University and is pursuing her master’s degree.

“We’re excited about the impact she will have on the program, and she has an incredible vision moving forward,” Langloss said.

The city has a contract with Sinnissippi to employ the coordinator, and it’s funded through a grant the city received from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Sinnissippi has launched a “Be a Hero; Save a Life” billboard campaign to promote awareness of Narcan, which is available without a written prescription and can be administered to someone experiencing an opioid overdose.

The organization has the nasal spray kits available and provides training required with how to use it. The services are funded from a Opioid State Targeted Response Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Last year, Sinnissippi Centers opened the area’s first recovery home that can accommodate 10 men, and it’s meant to provide a supportive environment for those coming out of rehab and lower the chance of relapse.

An ongoing goal is to open up another home for women.

“Our area has really been on the leading edge of battling the opioid crisis in the past several years, and we are seeing the results,” Sinnissippi President/CEO Patrick Phelan said. “Still, we can’t say the crisis is over either. Opioid use and overdoses are still a threat to individuals in our communities. We continue to work on new and innovative responses to this problem.”

Several other services and programs are ongoing in the area including medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, program that the Whiteside County Health Department started in 2016 that combines behavioral therapy with medications to treat substance abuse.

Last year, the Whiteside County Healthier Communities Partnership created an Opioid Task Force with the goal of spreading awareness and looking for effective ways to teach youth why and how they should avoid becoming addicted.

Also last year, KSB Hospital received a $200,000 Rural Communities Opioid Response Program planning grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to create Project Open, a prevention and engagement network in Lee and Ogle counties.

The project is aimed at creating a consortium of medical, behavioral health, public health, public school and law enforcement professionals to focus on opioid prevention across all ages through awareness, education and training.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica} Safe Passage

Lee County

To become a Safe Passage guide, or to learn more about the program, contact the Dixon Police Department at 815-288-4411 or the Lee County Sheriff’s Department at 815-284-6631 for help or more information.

Whiteside County

Heroin users or other opiate drug users looking for treatment can call the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department at 815-772-4044, Rock Falls Police Department at 815-622-1140, Sterling Police Department at 815-632-6640, or any county police agency.


Call 815-284-6611 or go to sinnissippi.org for more information. Sinnissippi also has a 24-hour crisis line at 800-242-7642