New outreach group combating Cook County’s opioid crisis by offering treatment, hope

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COOK COUNTY, Ill. — Fatal opioid overdoses have more than doubled in Cook County in recent years. It is now at the point where opioids are killing more people than gun violence and car crashes combined.

To combat the crisis, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart launched an outreach program last summer with the goal of helping drug users voluntarily get into treatment.

“What we’re seeing with opioid deaths, it’s never been seen before,” Dart said. “The numbers are staggering.”

Called the Treatment Response Team, the unit identifies drug hotspots through 911 calls and overdose data. Then, its members hit the streets to meet with users and dole out life-saving opioid reversal medications.

Elli Petacque Montgomery, the team’s leader, said the stakes are high.

“We’ve had clients who have already died and we started in June,” she said.

The team acknowledges not everyone wants their help. But they credit their proactive approach with helping more than 40 users find treatment.

“The goal is to get people services,” Montgomery said. “And to give people hope. To let them know there’s another way to live your life.”

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