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In Opioid Fight, Cook County Launches Deflection, Naloxone Initiative with TASC/CHJ as Partner

(FOREST PARK, IL) – The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) has launched a comprehensive initiative to prevent opioid overdose deaths in suburban Cook County, enlisting TASC as a partner.

Cook County’s initiative, rooted in a deflection strategy, will work with TASC’s Center for Health and Justice (CHJ), a nationally recognized deflection expert, to provide no-cost technical assistance to suburban law enforcement agencies.

“No matter where law enforcement and other first responders work, they invariably encounter and respond to the impacts of drug use and co-occurring disorders in their communities,” Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said at a press conference on December 9. “This keeps people with opioid use disorder out of jail and the emergency room, and provides resources and support in a compassionate way.”

In suburban Cook County, opioid overdose deaths in 2020 have already exceeded last year’s record, with 1,498 deaths compared 1,277 in 2019.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Cook County Department of Public Health, 12 police departments and communities will be starting new deflection programs, which is the largest single cluster of deflection sites ever conceived, created, and launched in such a short period of time in the nation,” said Jac Charlier, executive director for the Center for Health and Justice, the technical assistance arm of Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC). “This initiative is a huge first step toward bringing deflection to scale, and moving up the point in time at which people at risk of overdose can access treatment.”

The Cook County initiative brings together treatment providers, harm reduction advocates, community-based partners, researchers, and other government agencies, which will work together to provide:

  • Technical assistance to establish deflection programs for suburban Cook County law enforcement agencies. Deflection refers people with opioid use and substance use disorder to community-based treatment as an alternative to incarceration or the emergency room. 
  • Training on opioid overdose and naloxone use for law enforcement agencies.
  • Distribution of naloxone to priority law enforcement agencies and community partners.
  • Quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis on opioid overdose and opioid use disorder to inform public health efforts.

Establishing deflection programs and distributing naloxone with priority law enforcement agencies and community partners is a cornerstone of the program. CCDPH will coordinate with treatment providers, harm reduction advocates, community-based partners, researchers, and other government agencies to carry out the initiative. Cook County Department of Emergency Management and Regional Solutions (DEMRS) will help promote CCDPH’s initiatives to law enforcement partners. 

According to Charlier, the initiative builds on a DEMRS program to train 30 law enforcement agencies in the western suburbs on naloxone administration. CCDPH and TASC will also convene regional taskforces in the south and west suburbs to bring together partners and identify mutual resources. The initiative is supported by federal and state grant dollars.

Law enforcement referrals into deflection programs will be supported by deflection specialists. Deflection specialists help people arrange their first treatment appointment as well as address housing, transportation, employment, and other barriers to staying in treatment.

“When used effectively, deflection can save lives, reduce drug use, and build community trust while promoting public safety,” said Charlier.


Note: On December 16, between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., TASC will host a virtual orientation on deflection for suburban Cook County law enforcement agencies interested in participating in the program. The training will cover the value of deflection and how to identify individuals who are appropriate for deflection. To register for TASC’s virtual orientation, please contact Nikki Munoz at

For information about CCDPH’s opioid overdose prevention initiative, or to request naloxone, visit the CCDPH website.

Watch the full press conference here. 

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