The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, the Lake County Opioid Initiative, and the MacArthur Foundation Host First Annual Deflection/Diversion Summit

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Lake County State's Attorneys Office


December 9, 2022


For Immediate Release
Contact: Sara Avalos
(224) 374-2376

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, the Lake County Opioid Initiative, and the MacArthur Foundation Host First Annual Deflection/Diversion Summit


(Lake County, IL) Today, over 100 law enforcement leaders, clinicians, prosecutors, researchers, and community leaders attended the first annual Lake County Deflection/Diversion Summit hosted by the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, the Lake County Opioid Initiative, and the MacArthur Foundation. The summit focused on the research that shows preventive programs (called “deflection” and “diversion” separately) reduce crime and reduce drug overdoses.  

The event was opened by Chair of the Lake County Opioid Initiative, Chelsea LaLiberte, who focused on the success of a local program named “A Way Out” that connects individuals with treatment options after they have initial police contact. A Way Out was started in 2017, and the research has shown that the program has saved hundreds of lives in Lake County. LaLiberte urged law enforcement leaders to join the program so that more individuals can be served – not only those in the 15 communities that are currently enrolled.  

Lake County State’s Attorney Rinehart also welcomed participants and focused on the power of diversion within the courthouse. Rinehart stated that felony diversion participants had almost doubled since 2020 for non-violent offenders, but that the program needs to be “vastly” scaled up within the courthouse.  

Rinehart stated after the summit that racial disparities that existed in the diversion programs prior to 2020 had been eliminated. Rinehart encouraged all participants to visit the State’s Attorney’s dashboard that included diversion statistics.  

Expert Jac Charlier presented national statistics that demonstrated how mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, and expanded housing options prevent crime and decrease incarceration costs. Charlier encouraged leaders to invest in prevention programs and community engagement so that crime can be reduced “up-stream.” 

Researchers Melissa Labriola and Jirka Taylor from the RAND Corporation and Jessica Reichert from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority presented data demonstrating that A Way Out was saving lives compared to counties that did not have similar deflection programs.  

Sheriff John D. Idleburg said, “The collaboration which exists between the stakeholders in Lake County to provide help for those in mental crisis or living with substance abuse disorder is incredible.  Sheriff’s deputies and patrol officers from our partner agencies in the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) interacted with over 1,300 people in mental distress this year.  COAST has been able to offer or provide services to 72% of those individuals, which has proven to be extremely successful.  We, and our municipal partners, look forward to continuing this partnership, making COAST as robust and helpful of a program as possible.” 

“Our police leaders are right. These programs are critical to preventing crime. We need to make sure these diversion opportunities reach all communities separate from financial background or demographics,” State’s Attorney Rinehart said. 

Zion Police Chief Eric Barden stated, “I am very happy to be a part of such important discussions highlighting the challenges the community is facing. As an agency, we are always looking to improve upon ways that we can help members of our community and it is important to be involved with solutions outside of enforcement to truly benefit the community.” 

In addition, the event included a panel discussion by other program leaders in Lake County: 

Mental Health Deflection – Living Room Wellness Center (Sandra Bankston) 

Substance Abuse Disorder Deflection – A Way Out (Alicia Koh, Alex Seidelman) 

Harm Reduction & Drug Deflection – Live 4 Lali (Luis Aponte) 

Juvenile Domestic Violence Diversion – Step-Up (Karen Levi, Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office) 

Felony Diversion – Alternative Prosecution Program (Hon. Judge Christen Bishop, Kevin Malia) 

Teen Court & Retail Theft Diversion – Bruce Johnson, NICASA  

Elected leaders attended to offer their support and to learn from the research including U.S. Congressman Brad Schneider, Illinois State Representative Tom Weber, Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, Lake County Board member Sara Knizhnik, Lake County Board member Gina Roberts, and Lake County Board member Marah Altenberg.  Directors Mark Pfister and Sam Johnson from the Lake County Health Department attended as well due to their role in administering A Way Out and other local programs including the Mobile Crisis Team.  

The event ended with informal breakout meetings on how to connect more Lake County residents with rehabilitation, even when arrested for low level crimes. Chief Patrick Kreis from Vernon Hills stated, The Summit provided an excellent opportunity for police and other stakeholders to gather and discuss their mutual interest in helping people. By providing services instead of incarceration to those in need of help, we believe we can better serve the needs the community.” 



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