Cook County Sheriff launches program to address opioid crisis

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Opioid overdoses now kill more people than gun violence or car accidents in Cook County. (WLS)

Opioid overdoses now kill more people than gun violence or car accidents in Cook Cook County. Today, Sheriff Tom Dart unveiled a new program to help jail inmates deal with this drug crisis.

Rodney Cal has been in and out of the Cook County Jail for drug charges since the 1980's; that's how long the 52-year-old has been addicted to heroin.

"A lot of us get out and get frustrated, no job, no house, nowhere to go, so what they do is go back to what they used, to doing what they know," he said.

Erica Cuida, 37, has spent her entire adulthood experiencing the same cycle of heroin addiction.

"I've been coming here since I was 17-years-old," said Cudia, about Cook County Jail.
While the jail provides detox and drug treatment programs for opioid addicted inmates charged with drug offenses, there has never been any follow up once they leave jail.

"In a two week period of time when a person is released from custody, the chances of them dying from an overdose is off the charts," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Cal and Cudia said the overdose-reversing drug naloxone has saved them from dying several times. The inmates hope a new program called the Sheriff's Opioid Addiction Recovery Program, known as SOAR, will help their never-ending cycle end for good.

"They're going into a substance abuse program which we have here, but then here is the big turn, we are going to work with them back in the community", Dart said.

Dart said that upon release the inmates will be assigned to a case worker for at least three months. Cal and Cudia hope it's the key to keeping them alive, sober and out of jail.

"Us as addicts, we have a lot excuses we like to make, well guess what, you're not going to be able to make those excuses if you have someone who is going to back you, hold you accountable, " said Cudia.

"If you know you have people behind you a safety net, case managers, you're chances are better," said Cal.

The SOAR program is a court-ordered program. Released inmates will be on an electronic monitor. Dart said the new program will not cost taxpayers any extra money.
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