Stephenson County starts substance abuse task force - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Stephenson County starts substance abuse task force

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FREEPORT (WREX) -

For Freeport Police, using Narcan to save residents who've overdosed has almost become routine.

"We actually had a save last night where we got called to an unresponsive male," Chief of Police Todd Barkalow said.

"That happens far more frequently than it should."

But some days, police and EMTs can't get there in time. 

"Last year we had 7 [overdose deaths] and 11 this year already," Stephenson County Coroner Tim Leamon said. 

The Stephenson County Coroner says his office is seeing a steep rise in overdose deaths around Freeport, and the drugs don't discriminate.

"It touches every aspect of the community," Barkalow said.

But what happens for those who do survive? Where can they get help? And what are the best treatment options? These are all questions a new task force formed by Freeport Memorial Hospital, the coroner's office, and multiple police forces aim to answer.

"Sojourn House offers counseling and in-house help, but you have to be detoxified before you enter," Leamon said.

Area medical experts say there's a lack of treatment facilities and they are afraid doctors may be over-prescribing prescription drugs to patients.

"Right now its all about gathering data every time we meet to see what drugs are being used," FHN Chief Physician James Kolka said.

The task force has met twice now. Each agency has been tasked with a job. Police are investigating the types of drugs they see the most, while the coroner takes a hard look at what people are overdosing on and where. Then once a month, the agencies will report their numbers.

"We are working to define the problem, and then make some recommendations," Kolka said.

It's all in an effort to save more lives, and even help other cities in their fight.

"It's every small, medium, large city across the country," Barkalow said.

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