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Is McHenry County’s “A Way Out” Program Right for You?

McHenry Offers “A Way Out” to Amnesty and Treatment

A big problem that stands in the way of helping people start on the road to recovery is getting them to come forward and ask for help. One of the biggest factors that keeps them from reaching out is the fear that they’ll be tricked, or they’ll incriminate themselves, and instead of getting help they’ll be jailed and punished. Now, in McHenry County, there’s a new program to combat this issue: it’s called “A Way Out – McHenry County”.

“A Way Out” is a program designed to give people with addictions exactly that—a way out, a place to go when you don’t know where else to go and are afraid to come forward. So, how does it work and who’s eligible?

What Is “A Way Out” and How Does It Work?

“A Way Out” is an arrangement between the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office and several other county agencies to help fast-track people with heroin and other addictions to getting treatment.

The way it works is that anyone with a substance abuse problem can walk into a participating police department at any hour of the day and tell the clerk at the front desk that they want to participate in the “A Way Out” program. They can then turn in any drugs or paraphernalia they have on them without fear of being arrested or charged, and will be immediately directed to treatment.

Participating police departments include:

  • * Cary
  • * Fox River Grove
  • * Harvard
  • * Hebron
  • * Holiday Hills
  • * Huntley
  • * Island Lake
  • * Johnsburg
  • * Lake In The Hills
  • * Lakemoor
  • * Marengo
  • * McCullom Lake
  • * McHenry County Sherriff’s Office
  • * McHenry
  • * Prairie Grove
  • * Richmond
  • * Spring Grove
  • * Wonder Lake

Once the participant has declared they want to enter the program, an officer guides them through the intake process and takes them to a medical evaluation and level-of-care assessment at Centegra Hospital in Woodstock. The participant may then be taken to either Gateway or Rosecrance treatment centers. These centers have agreed to give “A Way Out” participants priority for available inpatient beds, and Rosecrance offers intensive outpatient programs. The county’s Mental Health Board has even provided $75,000 for treatment costs for uninsured and underinsured participants.

The program is completely confidential, your loved ones can accompany you up until your arrival at the treatment facility, and the whole process from the police station to the treatment center typically only takes a few hours.

Who Is Eligible to Participate?

The county does its best to try to give as many people as possible the opportunity to participate in the program. However, there are exceptions. Here’s a breakdown of who is and isn’t eligible:

  • * Some of the participating agencies will not accept people who aren’t residents of McHenry County.
  • * People without insurance or financial resources will still be accepted and the program will work to accommodate them.
  • * Anyone under 18 years of age needs a parent or guardian’s consent to participate.
  • * Someone who relapses during or after treatment can still participate again, because relapses are viewed as indicating the need for more treatment, not as failures.
  • * While participants won’t be arrested for handing over drugs or paraphernalia, the program won’t accept individuals with active warrants. The police will look into the case and decide the appropriate course of action, but in many cases this may mean serving the warrant.

Is the Program Effective?

This program is actually based on the “A Way Out” program first successfully implemented in Lake County. As of May, the “A Way Out – Lake County” program had served 118 people since its launch the previous June. So, the program has already been successful elsewhere. It represents a positive and proven opportunity for people with addictions to come out of the margins and seek the help they need.

If you think this program might be right for you or your loved one, visit or contact a participating police department. If you’re unsure if this is the right option or if something else would be more appropriate, feel free to call The Other Side at (779) 220-0336. We have experience with a variety of treatment approaches and will gladly direct you to whatever resources can best provide you the help you need.

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