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Friday, March 13, 2015
by Mike Nolan
A Cook County commissioner from the Southland wants to see more police officers equipped with a drug that can prevent heroin overdoses.
Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman, R-Orland Park, introduced a resolution that was adopted by the county board Wednesday, calling for police and other first responders to be trained in the use of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, when they encounter a person exhibiting signs of an overdose of opioids, such as heroin.
Fire department paramedics have long had access to Narcan, but police officers cannot, by law, carry the drug or administer it without training and approval from qualified medical personnel.
Will County last summer approved a program to train police officers in using Narcan, which is a nasal spray, and Orland Park police are also being equipped and trained in using it.
In 2013, opioid abuse led to 383 deaths in Cook County, and 234 were related to heroin overdoses, according to Gorman’s office.
Paramedics with the Orland Fire Protection District have used Narcan on “numerous occasions,” with an annual peak of 50-plus doses reached a couple of years ago, Fire Chief Ken Brucki said.
“We have seen a reduction in the number of cases” in recent years, but that number “is still staggering,” he said.
Having police able to administer the drug would be a benefit because they’re on the streets and often “can get there (a medical call) ahead of us,” Brucki said.
He said that a delay of even a minute or two in administering the drug can make the difference in saving a life.
Sledding enthusiasts won’t be able to zoom down the 100-foot slope at Swallow Cliff Woods nearPalos Park this winter, but officials of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County said they’re working to build a “new and improved” recreation area there. Winter events offer alternative to hibernation“It’s a site that’s being heavily used for recreation and fitness, so we’re trying to enhance that and keep it one of our premier recreation sites,” said Chris Slattery, the forest preserves director of planning and development.
Changes will include making the sledding area less steep, adding another set of stairs and constructing a new warming shelter.
The new shelter is under construction and should be completed by June, Slattery said. At about 3,000 square feet, it will be larger than the old shelter with a fireplace, concessions, meeting room, bathrooms and an outdoor patio and fire pit, he said.
For the fitness enthusiasts who climb the preserve’s 125 stairs year-round, district officials plan to add a second set of stairs on the right side of the hill, creating a loop that should eliminate some of the up-and-down traffic, Slattery said.
“Especially on the weekends during the summer, it’s so packed it’s ridiculous,” said Kevin McGreal, of Orland Park, who was finishing a 45-minute stair session Monday evening and said he hits the Swallow Cliff stairs a couple times a week, often with family. “I think it’s a great idea.”
But some of the changes will tame the thrills of Swallow Cliff, which currently has a steeper grade than other forest preserve sledding hills, and may disappoint sledding enthusiasts with a need for speed.
Swallow Cliff Woods, at 11918 S. La Grange Rd., used to feature toboggan runs that ran from the bluff’s peak to base, but they were “a bit of a hazard” and closed in 2004, at least in part due to safety concerns, Slattery said.
Until this winter, people could still sled on the hill, though only from a little more than halfway up. But once the toboggan chutes and their supports were removed, the hill began eroding, Slattery said.
To stabilize it, the district needs to regrade the slope to a gentler incline, Slattery said. The district also will add a platform marking the official starting line, still midway up the hill. The hill likely will be closed for sledding next winter too.
“I know that’s part of the thrill, but since the chutes were removed, it just isn’t stable. Making it a little less steep will help keep it from eroding,” Slattery said, explaining the changes weren’t just about safety.
The hill is in bad enough shape that the district closed it to sledding this winter, even though construction on the hill and new stairs likely won’t start until spring, Slattery said.
When the district sought input on the upgrades in 2013, there was talk of eventually adding an alpine slide that would allow year-round riding. Slattery said they’ve put that idea — floated after a few mild winters when there was rarely enough snow for sledding — on hold because it would require getting rid of the sledding hill.
“We want to see how popular the renovated hill is before we go there and see what happens to the climate,” he said.
All of the preserves features, including the new stairs and sledding hill, should be ready to open in 2016, Slattery said.
In the meantime, officials are directing sledding enthusiasts to nearby Pioneer Woods, at 9966 W. 107th St. in Willow Springs, with a sledding hill that opened Jan. 4.
17th District (southwest, west and northwest suburbs): Republican incumbent Elizabeth Doody Gorman has only a gentle challenge from Democrat Jim Hickey (no survey), who heads the Orland Fire Protection District. Hickey didn’t complete our election questionnaire, and we weren’t able to reach him.
We endorse Gorman with undying gratitude for her persistence in gradually killing the Stroger tax. And we applaud her work in making county government more active in three areas: her attention to animal protection issues (dogfighting remains alarmingly common), environmental concerns (flooding plagues many homeowners), and the need for expanded mental health services.
Gorman is the prime mover on an advisory referendum in which county voters will be asked whether Illinois should devote more funding to these services. One reason that’s important: Sheriff Tom Dart has written on our opinion pages that one-third of Cook County’s jail inmates suffer from serious mental illnesses; they rotate between the jail and the streets, receiving inadequate mental health treatment and running up criminal justice costs for taxpayers.
0 CommentsChicago, IL – Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman has sponsored a resolution asking to place a referendum on the Cook County ballot regarding mental health funding in Illinois. The resolution will be presented for approval at the upcoming Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting to be held this week on Wednesday, July 23. If passed, the referendum question will appear before Cook County voters on the November 4, 2014 ballot.
The resolution calls for the following question to be placed before Cook County voters in November, and it reads: “Shall the General Assembly of the State of Illinois appropriate additional funds to provide necessary mental health services for the people of the State of Illinois?”
One in five Illinois residents experiences a diagnosable mental disorder every year. Mental illness affects people regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion or economic status.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness, Illinois ranked fourth in the nation in terms of cutting mental health programs, with $187 million in cuts between 2009 and 2012. Half of Chicago’s 12 mental health care facilities have been closed by the state.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart estimates that 25%-30% of the Cook County Jail population is suffering from mental illness and Cook County Jail is viewed as the largest mental health facility in the United States. Also, a study conducted by the University of Chicago suggests that the majority of youth involved with the criminal justice system experience at least one psychiatric disorder.
“Mental health is an issue that touches across all spectrums of our community. It’s important that we not lose sight of the significant impact state funding cuts have had at the local levels. It’s time for Springfield to get its financial priorities in order but not at the expense of those people who are most in need, especially in the area of mental health care,” said Commissioner Gorman.
The resolution has the support of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (as a co-sponsor) as well as the bipartisan support of eight fellow commissioners who have also signed on as co-sponsors. In addition, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have submitted letters of support for the resolution.
President Preckwinkle and members of the Board of Commissioners recognize the significance of mental illness in Cook County and believe that more needs to be done to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and additional resources to heighten awareness of and treatment for mental illness should be provided.
Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman, Republican from Orland Park, represents Cook County’s suburban 17th District. She has been a strong advocate for tax reform, fiscal responsibility, and budget and operational efficiencies. Commissioner Gorman has also worked hard for greater transparency throughout Cook County government and for making the Forest Preserve District a national leader in the areas of recreation, restoration and conservation.
118 N. Clark Street, Suite 567
Chicago, Illinois 60602
Phone : 312-603-4215
15040 Ravinia Ave, Suite 44
Orland Park, Illinois 60462