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Cook County Maps Story of Opioid Epidemic with New Website

Thursday, September 05, 2019
WBEZ News
by Kristen Thometz

There were more than 2,000 opioid-related deaths in Illinois in 2017, including 399 in suburban Cook County. Just over half of those deaths – 202 – involved fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.

“The opioid overdose epidemic is a serious public health crisis,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, senior medical director of the Cook County Department of Public Health.

To draw attention to the epidemic, Cook County recently launched a new website to tell the story of the opioid crisis through maps, statistics and narratives.

“We have produced data briefs in the past but we wanted to produce something more accessible to the general public (that) allowed us to tell a story,” Joshi said of the website.

Both the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health have websites that offer information about the opioid epidemic, including fatalities and additional federal resources.

The new Cook County website presents statistics about opioid overdoses, the rise of fentanyl use, information about prescription disposal locations and a section devoted to those who have died. “It’s about honoring those who have died and bearing witness,” Joshi said.

Joshi also sees the website as a resource for people to access help. The site includes information about medication-assisted treatment, including an interactive map that allows users to search for treatment centers within 5 miles of their address, as well as how they can obtain the opioid overdose-reversing medication naloxone.

By making this information easily accessible, Joshi hopes it removes any stigma associated with seeking treatment. “Medication-assisted treatment should be viewed the same as any treatment for any other chronic disease,” he said.

The website was developed through a partnership between CCDPH and the Cook County Bureau of Technology and will be updated regularly, health officials say.

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz | (773) 509-5452 | kthometz@wttw.com



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