- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Law enforcement agencies and health centers in central Illinois are scrambling to address the opioid epidemic.

Six agencies make up the Illinois State Police Task Force 6 narcotics unit. Among them is the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Office, where Sheriff Jered Shofner says heroin is the area’s top public safety threat.

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage added that public education is key to fighting the surge of cases involving prescription drugs, which he says can be a path to heroin.

“This is not a problem we can arrest our way out of,” Sandage told The Pantagraph newspaper (https://bit.ly/2qkpw7K ).

A Bloomington mental health crisis and detox center had to turn away 70 people with addictions in March, a recurring dilemma for the 14-bed facility.

Chestnut Health Systems is in the process of adding eight more beds to its crisis stabilization center for people experiencing a mental health or drug-related crisis.

“In the last five years, detox centers in the state have closed because of funding,” said Joan Hartman, Chestnut’s central region manager. “Meanwhile, the need for beds is growing, especially in the rural counties.”

A $400,000 expansion of the agency’s west Bloomington facility is expected to be completed later this summer.

Local law enforcement officials say even small amounts of heroin circulating in a community can create devastating consequences.

“We see the human toll of addiction in small communities,” Shofner said. “We’re not a ‘source city’ for heroin dealers, but we end up seeing people who’ve just purchased the drug and used. As soon as they buy that small quantity, they are using it.”


Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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