Cook County Sheriff’s Office Launches Co-Responder Virtual Substance Abuse Assistance Program

Nov 9, 2020Press Release

COOK COUNTY, IL – With the COVID-19 pandemic presenting new challenges, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart has introduced a virtual substance abuse program through the use of electronic tablets. Having these tablets available for virtual support and follow-up services will be a tremendous help to those battling substance abuse. The Sheriff’s Treatment Response Team (TRT) will be able to connect clients with TRT clinicians during critical times.

TRT clients will receive assessments, referrals and resources in a “face-to-face” type of setting through the use of the tablet. This program establishes immediate co-responder services while the Sheriff’s Office is on the scene of an incident by enabling clinical staff to easily provide support and follow-up service at the time of need. Tablets will also be used by Sheriff’s Police Officers when encountering individuals in need of immediate assistance from a TRT clinician.

“Making it now possible for our fine officers to quickly contact clinicians is a major step in our continuing commitment to helping those dealing with substance abuse. Virtual experiences with telehealth and other benefits provide fast relief to those who need it and support more effective follow-up,” said Sheriff Dart.

This program was made available by the partnership of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials. It creates immediate services and implements local-level strategies aligned with promoting treatment and education to people impacted by the overdose crisis.

Through December 31, 2020, funding and technical assistance from these organizations will allow CCSO to explore new activities and collaborative approaches to support our continued efforts to combat the opioid crisis within our community.

History of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office Treatment Response Team

Cook County has had a notable gap in services for those seeking treatment for overdoses. To address this and a lack of healthcare in certain areas, Sheriff Dart, in early 2019, developed and implemented the TRT. By combining law enforcement resources with assistance from Licensed Clinical Social Workers, CCSO effectively directs people to harm-reduction and treatment services for those suffering from a Substance Use Disorder.

TRT receives reports on recent overdoses from the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Dispatch to identify individuals who may need service. In addition, it identifies others by monitoring drug trafficking areas designated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the overdose tracking tool ODMAP, which further enhances collaboration with other law enforcement agencies. Additionally, TRT conducts outreach to areas reporting high numbers of overdoses.

TRT can receive referrals from community members and, after initial contact with someone in need, provide naloxone, overdose-prevention training, and treatment materials. Afterward, it follows up by consistently checking in with each individual in a variety of ways including texting, social media, telehealth services and face-to-face contact. Overall, TRT’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse in Cook County.