Allie Everhart

The McHenry County Clerks Office in Woodstock houses the Substance Abuse Coalition, which provides services with those struggling with substance abuse.

The Substance Abuse Coalition

January 17, 2023

The Substance Abuse Coalition, a local organization, provides services for individuals struggling with substance use. It works with local government entities and nearly 300 members to combat the epidemic. Represented are schools, governments, law enforcement, parents and more.

Together, members look at substance use from different angles to determine policy and gaps in services. 

“To anybody in the community, we offer help connecting to treatment providers if people have either no insurance or poor insurance,” Program Coordinator Laurie Crain said. “We can also link to recovery services like Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs for specific groups.” 

The Coalition also provides resources for its member organizations and educational programs for schools, especially when there are increases in overdose deaths. 

“We try to keep people informed, so they know what’s happening in our community real-time,” Crain said. “That kind of activates the partners to offer support that might be needed to keep [overdose and death] numbers lower and get help outwards.”

The McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition posts informative fliers such as this to help connect those struggling with addiction to support. (McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition)

Crain adds that SAC, first and foremost, seeks to help those struggling. Because of this, when a person uses its resources, they are not reported to law enforcement for possessing controlled substances.

“We understand that people are human and need help,” she said. “There are people who say, ‘I’m using. I don’t want to stop, but I want to understand something.’ So we have partners who will educate them on how to use smarter, so they don’t run as many risks of overdosing.” 

To help, the Coalition encourages individuals to test their drugs for fentanyl, the substance most commonly responsible for overdoses in the county. Community organizations like Live4Lali and Warp Corps offer fentanyl test strips at no cost.

Naloxone, or Narcan, is an opioid overdose reversal medicine. The SAC promotes having it readily available, as it could be life-saving. It is available at no cost through community organizations.

“That’s what we want people to have in their hands,” Crain said. “I personally don’t have someone in my life who uses, but I carry Naloxone because if I’m in a setting where someone might use, I might need it just like CPR.”

Together, community partners and SAC have also developed a waste diversion program. In it, anyone can walk into a participating police department and say, “I need help,” and turn in their substances. There are no penalties and a person will get help with treatment.

“We work with DrugCourt, which is a different system where people agree to be in it and they get treatment, help with employment, housing and other things,” Crain said. “If they stay in the system long enough, they can have their records cleaned so they don’t have [a hard time].”

Amid the opioid epidemic, SAC continues to review its resources and establish new ones to meet the community’s needs. 

“The Health Department is part of that,” Crain said. “The State’s Attorney is part of that. Whichever partners are key to developing those programs come together to do so.”

Recognizing the signs of an opioid overdose can be a matter of life or death for someone. These include unresponsiveness, slow heartbeat, pinpoint pupils, irregular or stopped breathing and pale or clammy skin. Administer Naloxone and call 911 in case of an overdose.

McHenry County has combated the epidemic for some time now; and there’s more resources available than ever. 

Local organizations like the Substance Abuse Coalition, Live4Lali and Warp Corps can further provide resources, including Naloxone.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story unclearly presented data about opioid deaths in McHenry County in 2022. We regret this error and have made changes to clarify that number — around 20 people.

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