Lake County 5K run/walk draws attention to opioid crisis

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

Participants in the 2017 event follow the paved trail along the bluff area. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

The Lake Villa-based Gateway Foundation and the Lake County Opioid Initiative have partnered together to raise public awareness over the health crisis arising from opioid addiction, and its potentially fatal consequences.

The “One Stride at a Time 5K Run/Walk: Race to End Overdose” is being held Oct. 13, and the third annual event seeks to raise funds for both organizations while aiming to equip more families with dispensers of the life-saving drug, Naloxone.

Since 2014, Lake County first responders carrying Naloxone have reversed nearly 223 overdoses from opioid products, such as fentanyl, preventing deaths from its abuse. Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, quickly restoring normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed, or stopped, as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription medications.

Providing more people in the community with Naloxone can help prevent the increasing number of overdoses, and since 2016, the Gateway Foundation has provided more than 190 doses of the life-saving medication through its Naloxone Distribution Program to patients, families and members of Lake County. The foundation also supports the Lake County Opioid Initiative in an overall effort to prevent opioid misuse, addiction, overdose and death.

“Gateway was invited to join the initiative program, and we’ve been meeting with the principal organizers over the last four years,” said Karen Wolownik Albert, the Lake Villa facility’s executive director. “We are fortunate to have sponsors that help offset the costs for this event, and more runners equates to more funds that we can donate to the initiative and people in need.”

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim.

The Lake County Opioid Initiative was established by Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, NICASA CEO Bruce Johnson, Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko, and Chelsea Laliberte Barnes, who started the “Live4Lali” foundation, a substance abuse prevention program, after a family member succumbed to the disease.

The group also networked to establish the “A Way Out” program, a law enforcement-assisted diversion program that gives drug users a way to get help without fear of criminal charges. “Last year, we raised $5,000 through the race event and helped raise awareness to the problem of opioid addiction,” said Nerheim. “It’s been a great event every year and we want to thank the Gateway Foundation for hosting the event again this year.”

The Gateway Foundation has 14 facilities nationwide, with 11 located in Illinois, with a “mission to develop, implement, evaluate and sustain a multi-strategy county-wide effort to prevent opioid abuse, addiction, overdose, and death,” according to its website.

“We have 122 residential beds for adolescents and adults, and we have up to 1,200 people in our residential programs each year,” said Albert. “We also treat 250-300 every year through our outpatient programs in Lake Villa and Gurnee. Our facility at 25480 W. Cedar Crest Lane in Lake Villa is also near Hastings Lake, where the event will be held.”

Hastings Lake is part of the Lake County Forest Preserve District and located at 21155 W. Gelden Road in Lake Villa. There are two circular loop trails, one that winds around the shelter and playground areas, and a longer one that navigates around the lake. The lake path has several moderate grades, and an overall easy level of difficulty with two bridges spanning the wetlands. Benches are situated at numerous points, with a larger stone rest area by the water, where two swans tend to “hang out.”

“We’re grateful that the forest preserve district allowed us to use the Hastings Lake venue, it’s a beautiful place,” said Albert. “The lake trail is 2.0 miles, and the other trail is 1.1 miles, and doubles back to the lake with several access points. It’s a full 3.1 miles, or 5K course.”

The event is Oct. 13, and the Adult 5K Run/Walk steps off at 8:30 a.m., with a 6:30 a.m. runner registration and check-in. The Youth Fun Run starts at 9:30 a.m., and all participants get a “goodie bag” and a T-shirt. Floaters will be on the course, and a manned water station will be set up at the halfway point. The packet pick-up and registration will be Oct. 12, from 4-6 p.m., at Gateway’s Lake Villa Gym.

Costs are $35 for adults, $20 for Gateway Foundation Employees, and $15 for the Youth Fun Run.

All proceeds raised will be split equally between Gateway Foundation’s Naloxone Distribution Program and Lake County Opioid Initiative.

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-=— Lake County 5K run/walk draws attention to opioid crisis —-