In February of 2015, Lee County was rocked by three heroin overdose deaths in the course of 10 days. In response to these tragic deaths, Lee County Health Department Administrator, Cathy Ferguson, called a meeting of key stakeholders.

The group, later named “PRISM of Lee County”, consisted of top level administrators from KSB Hospital, Sinnissippi Centers, Dixon Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Lee County State’s Attorney and faith-based leaders. Also present were leaders from Safe Harbor, a newly formed group comprised of people in recovery and people with family members who suffer from addiction.

PRISM, an acronym for Prevention, Recovery, Intervention, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health, accepted the “Four Pillar Approach” to address the Opioid epidemic in this rural area of northwest Illinois.  The four pillars being: Prevention, Education, Treatment, and Enforcement.

During one of the initial meetings of PRISM, Alison White (a member of Safe Harbor) asked Sheriff John Simonton and Chief Danny Langloss if they had heard about a new program created by Chief Leonard Campanello of the Gloucester (Massachusetts) Police Department. Alison explained that Chief Campanello was going to allow heroin addicts to come to the police department, turn in their drugs and drug paraphernalia and not be arrested.

Instead of incarceration Chief Campanello was going to see these addicted individuals placed directly into treatment. White asked Sheriff Simonton and Chief Langloss if they would be willing to do this, and they both immediately said, “Yes”.  Thus the start of Safe Passage.