A Way Out operating fully

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Lake County State's Attorneys Office



Sept. 17, 2020

For Immediate Release
Contact: Lee Filas
(847) 377-3141 – office
(847) 707-6479 – cell

A Way Out back up and fully operational despite COVID-19

(Lake County, IL) Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim has announced the nationally-recognized “A Way Out” program is back up and running at full capacity as of August. The program had been temporarily forced to operate in limited capacity in Lake County due to COVID-19.

People suffering from addiction and looking for treatment resources can again enter one of 14 participating police departments in Lake County to seek help. Those in need will not be turned away from the program, even when they lack the means to pay for treatment through insurance or other financial resources.

“I'm truly excited to know the “A Way Out” program is back up and fully operational," Nerheim said. “This program is extremely helpful to assist with treatment for those struggling with addiction.”

Nerheim added, "The pandemic has presented many challenges to all of us and I am proud that, at a time when many substance abuse providers closed their doors or limited services, this program never shut down and was able to help people in need the best way possible at the time. Now we have even more resources available to those seeking help and the need is greater than ever."

“A Way Out” is an Illinois Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program specifically designed to fast-track those who need treatment to substance abuse programs and services, said Bill Gentes, Executive Director of the Lake County Opioid Initiative. The program was developed by the Lake County Opioid Initiative to create additional treatment access points, reduce crime, reduce substance-related harms, re-frame the role law enforcement plays in community safety, and unite the community, Gentes said.

To date, 743 clients have taken advantage of the “A Way Out” program in Lake County since the program was initiated in 2016. In a non-COVID year, the program assists about 220 clients annually, though the number of people helped in 2020 has dipped to below 100 because of COVID-19.

The program is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at participating police departments across Lake County. Those departments include the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, as well as police departments in Antioch, Deerfield, Fox Lake, Grayslake/Hainesville, Gurnee, Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Mundelein, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Park, Wauconda and Zion. People turning themselves in to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office can do so in the main lobby, the highway patrol substation in Libertyville, or the sheriff’s marine unit in Fox Lake.

People can simply tell the clerk at the participating police department reception window they want to participate in “A Way Out.” People seeking help after open lobby hours should locate a call box and tell dispatch you want to participate in the program.

Those who choose to join the program will not be charged criminally if in possession of narcotics or paraphernalia when they turn themselves in, as long as assistance is sought out by the prospective program participant.

For too long, substance abuse has been stigmatized and dealt with as a criminal issue rather than a public health problem that needs to be addressed. The Lake County Opioid Initiative is committed to developing innovative ways to create positive change in our community as it regards substance use and mental health.

“This pandemic has been exceptionally hard on everyone, including those struggling with addiction,” Nerheim said. “But, thanks to persistence by everyone involved in this program, we were able to keep it functioning throughout and are again fully operational.”

For more information about the program, please review their website at opioidinitiative.org/awayout.


Lake County State's Attorney's Office 18 N. County Street Waukegan, IL 60085  Phone: (847) 377-3000