Lake County, IL program offers opioid addicts help instead of jail

LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- An initiative to help people in Lake County, Illinois break free of opioid addiction is growing. The program is showing promising results helping people regain their lives.

It has been a tough journey for Danya Vazquez.

"Had it not been for this program, I would not have the privilege to be speaking in front of you today," Danya Vazquez said.

Vazquez stood with several Lake County police officers Tuesday. Nine months ago, she was a heroin addict hospitalized with withdrawal.

Her road to recovery began when she met two Libertyville police officers who told her about "A Way Out," a program that offers addicts treatment instead of jail.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to go with that at first. I was very uneasy. I mean, they are cops," she said.

Vazquez -- comforted by those officers and reminded of her young daughter who needed her -- went to treatment.

Today, she is sober, working and restoring her relationship with her daughter - and no longer doing petty theft to feed her addiction.

"I wouldn't ever think that I was going to turn to the police to help me, but I'm very grateful that I did because they helped save my life," she said.

In the last year, police officers in Lake County have gotten 170 addicts to treatment and more departments are training officers for the "A Way Out" program.

"To everyone out there struggling with substance abuse, we're here to help you, plain and simple. We want to find a solution to this problem that's plaguing every single town," said Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther.

Among the officers at Tuesday's press conference were those who met Vazquez last October.

"Today was great actually seeing her and knowing she made it through the program," said Detective Walter Rodriguez, Libertyville Police Department.

"It felt really good to have them see me as I am now," Vazquez said.

While the program is new, those in law enforcement expect this to save more lives and ultimately reduce crime as addicts get treatment and learn healthier ways to take of themselves.
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