Representing the State & Community

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    • 00:11

      SPEAKER 1: How you doing, Mike?

    • 00:12

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: Thanks for being here again today.

    • 00:13

      SPEAKER 1: It's good times.

    • 00:14

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: Can we get an update on where we're at.I know you've been working with Vivitrolin the jail as a department with the Health Department.I want to talk about that and justget a real quick update from you on prescription take-back, too.Hello, my name is Mike Nerheim, and I'm the Lake CountyIllinois State's Attorney.In terms of important traits or skills of a State's Attorney,I think, first and foremost, the number one most important trait

    • 00:37

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: is judgment.Essentially what a prosecutor does,whether it's a State's Attorney, Attorney General,an Assistant US Attorney, is essentiallyevery day we're called upon to make decisions.And we have to look at evidence.We look at law.We look at the big picture.We look at what's right, and we have to make judgment calls.Especially, in my position, being an elected official,

    • 00:57

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: I'm ultimately answerable to the people who elect meand most elected prosecutors are in that same boat.And we can't worry about what the political thing to do isor what the popular thing to do is, we have to do what's right.And the nice thing about being a prosecutor, though,is we have discretion.We have an incredible amount of discretion to do just that,

    • 01:18

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: to do what's right.And I think as long as we're exercisingour discretion appropriately, we're effective at what we do.And sometimes it's pursuing the maximum possible sentenceon a particular case.Sometimes it's dismissing a case or not filing charges at all.And that's the discretion that we have.And when we make those tough decisions,we have to look at all the evidence, everything

    • 01:41

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: there is available to us, and thenmake those tough decisions.But it's, in my opinion, the single most important attributeof a prosecutor's judgment.So our primary responsibility, in fact,our ultimate responsibility, is to seek justice.And it's not only the ethical drive that we have,there are charges to seek justice,but that's in terms of our philosophy,

    • 02:04

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: in terms of what drives us as prosecutors.That's the ultimate question we alwayshave to ask ourselves is, are we seeking justice?And justice can mean a lot of different things.You know, again, justice can mean 100 years in prison.It could mean life in prison.Justice can also mean dismissing a caseor not filing charges in the first place.Justice could mean a diversion program.

    • 02:26

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: So justice, that concept, takes on a lot of different forms,but it's our job to seek justice, not merely seekconvictions.And I think a lot of people in the general publichave this perception that prosecutorsare out there putting notches on their beltevery time they send somebody to prisonor every time they get a conviction on a case.That's not our philosophy.

    • 02:46

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: And, in fact, in my particular office,I've met personally with every single person thatworks with me, so they know that from the bossall the way down that our drive is to seek justice.And we actually went so far as we changed our seal,and now the term, Seek Justice, is prominentlydisplayed in our office seal.Because I want everybody to know every time they come to work,

    • 03:07

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: every time they look at a patch, every time theylook at our letterhead, it's reminding themof their goal, which is to seek justice.And it's important that the public knows it, too,because again there is this perception out therethat we're high-fiving each other every time somebody goesto prison.And don't get me wrong, prison isappropriate for certain individuals.But I think, certainly, it should

    • 03:29

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: be used as a last resort.And what we're trying to do as prosecutors alwaysis to look at alternatives to that.If there is a way we can achieve our goal of having somebodytake responsibility for their conductand still be able to get through without a conviction,for example, so they can get a job and get on their feet,that's a win-win as far as we're concerned.

    • 03:49

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: Or even before that, if we can get into the communityand prevent crime from happening in the first place.I think, traditionally, prosecutorsare very reactive in the sense that oftentimeswhat would happen is a crime would be committed,the police would be called, therewould be an investigation, there'dbe contact with the victim.This investigation could take days, weeks, months,

    • 04:11

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: years, ultimately, that would end up in a prosecutor'soffice, and then they would take it sort of from thereand go into court.And, again, that was the traditional roleof prosecutors, and they didn't really much concern themselveswith what happened before that.It's, OK, now there's been an arrest, we have chargesand, OK, we'll take it from here and we'll go to court.The new way, and I can speak for a lot of my colleaguesaround the state, around the country, that I talk to.

    • 04:33

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: It's not simply what happens after there's a charge,it's what happens before that?What happens in the schools?What happens in preschools and in kindergarten?How can we work in our communitiesto give people the tools they need so they don't end upin the criminal justice system?And we spend as much or more, quite frankly,of our time in the community as we do in a courtroom.

    • 04:53

      SPEAKER 1: It's in order to treat alcoholand opioid-based conditions.In other words, individuals who are having struggles.We do that in work in conjunction with counseling.So the idea is that help them get off of it,and then further down the road make sure they stay off of it.It's something that's being offered in the jail.Right now, since it's just a pilot program,it's been very successful in other states,and we're trying to implement that here at our office.

    • 05:14

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: Yeah, I think it's huge.So having experience as a defense attorneyis, in my opinion, very important in beinga prosecutor, certainly being the leader of a prosecutor'soffice, because it gives me perspectivethat I wouldn't otherwise have.And I had been a Assistant State's Attorneyafter law school, so I started my career as a prosecutor.

    • 05:35

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: I went on the defense side of the fenceand handled cases as a criminal defense attorney representingeven indigent clients through the public defender's officeand also in private practice.And now, as the elected State's Attorney,I'm back in the prosecutor's seat again.But having been on both sides of the fenceis really important, because not only does itgive you that perspective because, again,

    • 05:56

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: as I had said earlier, it's about seeking justiceand doing what's right.It's not just about sending people to prison.And when we go to court as prosecutors,we represent everybody.We represent the victim.We represent society, in general, and to some extent,we also represent the defendant.It's our job to make sure that he or she is treated fairly,even if their own attorney doesn't.

    • 06:17

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: And if you think about it, there'sreally no other position in all of lawwhere it's your job to look out for all the parties,because we have an adversarial legal system.When I went to court as a defense attorney,I was only concerned with my client.That's it.My job was to win for my client, and that's how it should be.As a prosecutor, though, it's not

    • 06:38

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: as if it's the reverse where we justcare about the victim and nobody else.Certainly, we are there for the victim,but we're also there, not just for the victimbut for everybody, including the defendant.So it's really, I think, a very noble profession and it'sunlike any other one in our legal system.But again, having that experienceas a defense attorney gives me that perspective

    • 06:59

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: that I wouldn't otherwise have.I mean, as a prosecutor, you don't always get to speak.In fact, you hardly ever get to actually meet the personthat you're prosecuting.So you only know him or her from whatyou've read in a police report or in a victim's statement.So we generally have, in the past,you look at a police report and you label somebody as, OK,that person's a burglar, or that person's a robber,

    • 07:20

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: or that person's a drug dealer, that person is a murderer.Because that's what your police reports,that's what your witness statements, that'swhat your charge is.You don't ever get to see and sit down and talkto the person as a person.As a defense attorney, when you goto meet with your client in the jail,and maybe they're charged with murder, and you realize that,yes, this person is charged with murder

    • 07:41

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: and they're charged with doing some awful things.But you get to sit down and talk to them as a personand you realize that this is a human being.This is somebody with a family, with a mother or a father.They have fears.They have senses of humor, so you get to see them as people.And you don't get that perspective as a prosecutor,and what we have to always remind ourselves

    • 08:02

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: as prosecutors is, just because somebody breaksthe law or somebody commits a crime doesn't necessarily meanthey're a bad person.I think, certainly, there is evil out there.There are people that do horrible things thatare horribly evil people.But I do think by and large the vast majority of peoplethat end up in the criminal justice systemare good people that did something stupidor made bad choices.

    • 08:24

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: They still need to be held accountable,but it doesn't actually mean they're bad people.So having that perspective as a defense attorney I thinkis really critical.I can remember the first person I representedcharged with murder.He was a 17-year-old kid looking at spendingthe most of the rest of his life in prison.In the incident, one of his best friends had been killed.

    • 08:47

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: So I have this young man that's charged with murder,and we would sit and have these long discussions wherehe would laugh, and he would cry,and he would talk about his mom, and things like that.And it's hard to initially square that away with, well,this person's charged with murdering somebody,but you realize that he's a person.And, again, it doesn't excuse what they did.It doesn't minimize what they did,but it gives you a perspective.And the other thing I have seen in my career

    • 09:09

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: is getting back to, I think, someof the misperceptions that the public has of prosecutors,in general.And a lot of this is portrayed by the media.And I think there are bad apples out therethat kind of perpetuate some of these negative stereotypes.But, again, I think there is this sense that prosecutorsare just cold, calculated, heartless people that

    • 09:31

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: really have no compassion.And in my experience in my office and prosecutorsthat I've met around the country isthat nothing could be further from the truth.I mean, these people have huge hearts.They're really concerned with trying to help people.And I just wish sometimes that wecould open the doors of our officeand let the public come in and wander around and listen inon conversations that two prosecutors are having

    • 09:51

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: in their office, because I think what people think they wouldhear would be two people talking about, hey,how can we send this guy to prison forever?Or how can we prosecute this innocent person?But what they would really hear is,hey, how can we help this person?What's the right thing to do in this case?How about the victim?How about the defendant?What mitigation do we have?Those real conversations happen every day

    • 10:12

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: in prosecutor's officers around the country,and again, they have that discretion to do what's rightand most often they do.And I think somebody's willingnessto choose Vivitrol, to me, signifiesthey really want help.They really want treatment as opposed to saying, hey,I'll take some sort of program to just get me out of jail.And I know we've talked about having a carrot there

    • 10:33

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: to get people to participate, whether it'sdiversion or something like that,but I know we've been involved in those discussions.And I think it's going to be a great program.

    • 10:40

      SPEAKER 1: It shows a commitment on their part, too.

    • 10:42


    • 10:42

      SPEAKER 1: That they're dedicated to not just abandona problem, they really want to break through and get backto being a good healthy person again.

    • 10:50

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: Balancing punitive and preventiveelements of our job is important.And it's when you look at that discretion,and it gets to one of the hardest question prosecutorsask themselves every day is, what's the right thing to doin this case?What's an appropriate offer to make in this case?And every case is different.

    • 11:10

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: Every set of facts is different.I very strongly disbelieve in things like zero tolerancepolicies or situations where you have almost a flow chart whereif this happens, you do this.I think the most important and the most powerful toolthat we have is our discretion, and we have to use that.And in doing that, you have to look at every single case

    • 11:31

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: differently, every set of facts differently,every defendant differently, and then apply what you thinkis appropriate.And that's always going to be a mixture of punitive,and protective, and rehabilitation in someregards to try to obviously balance the needto protect your community, to keep the victimand help make the victim whole, and bring justice

    • 11:52

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: to that victim whatever that means to the victim,to bring justice to your community.But, also, recognizing that this personthat you're prosecuting, if they'regoing to go to prison, for example,they're not going to be there in almost every casefor the rest of their life.They're going to come out.So how can we help that person when they come outbe productive in the community.Or if we can avoid sending them to prison or even jail,

    • 12:14

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: how can we get them to a situationwhere they are taking accountabilityfor what they've done, owning up to it, learning about it?Hopefully, getting treatment if there'sa drug issue, or an alcohol issue,or some other substance abuse issue thatis driving their criminal behavior, we can treat that,so these people become productive members of society.How can we help them do that?So if we can balance all of that, then we've done our job.

    • 12:37

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: For me, it's whatever works, for whatever works for that person.But I've talked to a lot of peoplein the using community that have told methat they've tried everything and the only thingthat's worked is Vivitrol.So why don't we try it, right?Let's see where it goes.

    • 12:50

      SPEAKER 1: Leave no stone unturned.

    • 12:51

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: You have to be out there in the community.You do have to invite people to come in and listen to them.And, you know, I'm a member of my community.I live in Lake County and my familyis being raised in Lake County.We have businesses here, so I'm very familiar with the LakeCounty Community.I know what my issues are, but those may notbe issues of other people in the community.

    • 13:11

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: And Lake County is a big community.It's a very diverse community.We have a little bit of everythingif you think about it.I mean, Lake County, so you're about 720,000 people.Geographically we're a large county,but we have some of the wealthiest communitiesin the country, we have some of the poorest communitiesin the country.We have some urban areas, and we also

    • 13:32

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: have rural areas and everything in between.So what is important in one communitymay not be important in another.So some of the things we do is we have forums where we simplygo out, we invite people from the communityto come in, and tell us, what's important to you?In some communities, it's crime prevention.In other communities it's heroin and opiates.In some communities, it's bullying, financial identity,

    • 13:55

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: theft, elder abuse.It just depends, and some of those range all over.But really you have to get out and listen because, ultimately,we represent the people.And we need to listen to them in termsof what is important to them.So getting out there, having forums.I have a panel in my office, whichis it's called the Citizens Advisory Board whereI have a group of community leaders, pastors,

    • 14:18

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: different people from around the community thatare leaders in their respective areasthat meet with me periodically.We literally sit around a table and talkabout what's important to them and their community.And it's does a couple of things for me.It gives me perspective in areas that I might not otherwisehave.But it also allows people in those communitiesto have a voice in my office and with me

    • 14:40

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: that they wouldn't otherwise have.Because they may not feel comfortablepicking up the phone and calling me directly or callingthe police directly, but they may talk to their pastorand tell their pastor, hey, this is important to me.I see this going on, this is a problem,and then, in turn, their pastor can come to me.So there's a lot of different things you can do.But, ultimately, it's about listening and asking

    • 15:00

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: the question.You know, I found in terms of getting along with people,it's listening to them.And it may sound overly simplistic,but I can't tell you how many times we'vehad situations where people have called inor pulled me aside after a forum, or out in the communitythat have had complaints or issues.And what I have found is simply them being heard and really

    • 15:23

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: feeling like they've been heard, not just they're talkingand you pretend to be listening, and then go on about your day,but if they feel like you're really listeningand they're being heard.And oftentimes, and sometimes more often than that,there's really nothing you can do.But if they feel like they've been heard,that is so helpful to people.So just being out there, being accessible, being opento people, really helps.

    • 15:45

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: And that cuts across every-- that cutsacross every racial or every socioeconomic demographic.People just want to be heard.It's important that we continue to talkabout our strength, which is our diversityand how many people we have from different groupscoming together.You know the beauty of our community here in Lake Countyis we work together.

    • 16:05

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: We collaborate, we communicate.And my belief is whatever the issueis, whether it's opiate addiction,whether it's police-community relations, whether it's drunkendriving, whether it's domestic violence, sexual assault,you name it, the more people you can bring to the tableto help you, the more effective you're going to be.It's not always going to just be law enforcement or just

    • 16:27

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: the government.So we work together really well, and the Lake County OpioidInitiative is an example of how that can be effective,where there was a group of us initially about three yearsago, and we sat down at a table, four of usand we talked about this is a problem, this is an epidemic,this is huge.It's all over our community, what can we do about it?What can I, as a prosecutor, do about it?

    • 16:49

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: What can a treatment provider do about it?What can law enforcement do about it?And we recognized early on that if wecan bring all those people to one table,because there are a lot of people that care.And there's a lot of people out there workingon this from their different perspective,whether they're a faith-based organization, whether they'rea hospital, whether they're a treatment provider,fire department, a police department,

    • 17:10

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: let's get all those people in one roomand let's come up with solutions and work on them together.We all know what the problem is, but how can we work togetherto solve it?So that, in my opinion, is our greatest strengthand when you look at the Lake County OpioidInitiative, that has so many different member agencies.You have groups like, Soft Landing Recovery,Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, all the police

    • 17:32

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: departments, Mundelein Police Department,I can name every one of them.We have 43 plus police departmentshere in Lake County.They're all involved.The Sheriff's Department, the Courts, the Bar Association,faith-based community.We have people that are just regular people thatare in recovery that want to help out.So you name it, I mean, there is just so many different people

    • 17:52

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: that come together, that work together.Some of those organizations are incrediblyeffective in their own communities.And then when we can combine them and work together,we're even that much more effective.We are at 80 lives saved right now with naloxoneissuing with law enforcement issuing

    • 18:13

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: naloxone so that's huge.And we've had a surge of saves just within the last few weeks.I'm sure you heard the Sheriff's Department had this past week,there were five overdoses in one house,and they had two saves out of that.So all the police continue to do a great job saving lives.And the law enforcement folks should alsoknow that Susan and I have been working on sustainability

    • 18:34

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: for that program.Because we know that, even though we've been very lucky--I guess luck's not the right word,because Susan's been working hardto achieve these donations.But we've been able to do this without any cost,but we can't always count on those donations.So we do have a Plan B that we'reworking on where we can find some fundingso we can continue that, so hopefully it

    • 18:55

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: won't come out of the pockets of law enforcement.It's about relationships, and if youcan build those relationships and have them,it just makes it so much easier to accomplish goals.And an example would be with our police naloxone program.So naloxone is, if you don't know,it's essentially the antidote to an opiate overdose.And it comes in a lot of different forms.

    • 19:16

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: There's a nasal administration.It can be a needle or there is like an EpiPen version.So early on, if you go back about two years ago,our law enforcement subcommittee came up with this notionthat-- naloxone has been out there for a long time,and most first responders, the EMTs, the ambulances,the fire departments, they have naloxone, they carry it.

    • 19:37

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: If there's an overdose, and somebody calls 911,and the EMTs show up, they're going to have naloxone.And they're going to be able, hopefully,to be able to revive that person and bring him back to life.It's an amazing drug and ironically it'smanufactured by a Lake County-based company.But the first responder subcommittee recognized,the police officers, they said, hey, look,

    • 19:59

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: if there's a 9-1-1 call to an overdose, who'sgoing to get there first?Almost always the police are, and it's notthrough the fault of the other first responders.It's just the simple fact that the police,if you think about it, they're out there patrollingthe streets, so their response time is generallygoing to be faster.They're not responding from a fire station or a fixed place.

    • 20:20

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: When the call comes in, the officer to be down the streetfrom the location.So they're almost always going to get to the scene two,to three, to four, to five minutesbefore the other first responders.And that two to five minutes could be life or deathfor somebody's loved one.And the officers said, hey, look,we're coming to these scenes, we're standing thereat the scene of an overdose and we're looking down

    • 20:42

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: as somebody's son, or grandson, or husband,or wife is dying in front of me.Why can't we have naloxone?We have the fibrilators.So that came up through the first responders and, again,these are police officers.I've got to give them a lot of creditbecause some of the most forward thinking progressive ideashave come out of the police first responders subcommittee.So we worked through a lot of those issues

    • 21:04

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: in terms of liability, cost, training, all those things,but the beauty of our initiative is we could literallylook around the room, and if we needed to do some legislation,OK, we have the legislators over here in the corner.If we need training, we need to go to the Health Department.OK, here's the Health Department right across the table.We need to engage the police departments,all the chiefs of police are sittingright here, so literally, in one room, we had all those players.

    • 21:27

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: And we could get this program up and running very quickly.It didn't cost the taxpayers a penny.All the naloxone was donated.It was trained by-- the training was done by our HealthDepartment where they did a train to trainer model,where the departments would send people in to be trained.They would then, in turn, go back, train their departments.Which allowed us to train and equip just

    • 21:49

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: about every police officer in Lake Countyalmost overnight free of charge.And once that program started running,it was within a couple of days that those first lawenforcement saves started coming in.And again, these are saves where overdose 9-1-1 is called,officer responds before any other first responder,somebody is laying there overdosed

    • 22:09

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: and then they are now able to pull out that naloxoneand issue it to the person and save their life.That's happened 80 times in just over a yearhere in Lake County.So that's one just one example of a very successful programthat we were able to get up and running quicklyby having all those people at one table communicating,

    • 22:30

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: and getting buy-in, and then getting the word out,and getting people out there doing it.And it's just been wonderful.Now, again, that's just one part of it,because you saved the life, that's great.But that's temporary.You have to get those people then into treatmentor it's-- unfortunately, we've had a few cases where someof those 80 saves are repeats, where somebody had overdosed,

    • 22:52

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: literally died, saved, brought back to life, back out,and then they overdosed again.And they're saved again, so we have to getthose people into treatment.That shows you how powerful this addiction is.That shows you what we're up against,but it also shows you what, I think, is really criticalhere is, the shift in law enforcementin terms of the way they viewed this population of people.

    • 23:16

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: It wasn't that long ago where peoplewould look at people in the using community,or if you saw an overdose, there weresome that would think, well, that's just what you get.That's what happens when you use drugs.But law enforcement has shifted the way it looks at this,and they realize now that these are people.These are human beings.This could be any one of their kids.

    • 23:36

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: It could be any one of their spouses.It could be any one of them, quite frankly.So it's not about who's right or who's wrong, or who's weakor who's strong, this is somethingwhere these are people struggling with addictionand we need to help them.And it gets law enforcement thinking about their roleas helping people as saving people,not just going out and arresting them.But it also gets the public thinking about the police

    • 23:58

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: again as there to help them, not just looking to jam them up.They're there to actually help them.

    • 24:04

      SPEAKER 1: Yeah, it is a reasonable enough nowthat it's something that's a viable solution.So not offering these people would be an injustice to themas well as everybody else that's here to serve them.

    • 24:12

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: Right.When we have these meetings, like the opioid initiativemeeting, you bring all these people into the room,and we talk about certain projects that we're looking at,specific projects, but also very big picture issues.For example, one thing that we work on a lot in Lake Countyand around the area is unused prescription medicationdisposal.

    • 24:33

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: It's very important.It may not seem important, but it really is.Because if you think about it, the number one abuse drugright now in the country is prescription medication.And also, when you look at a heroin problem,and I'll back up for a second.Our task force is called the Lake County Opioid Initiative,and it's on purpose.

    • 24:53

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: It's not called the Lake County heroin initiative.Heroin is a problem.It's a problem all over the country.But it's not the only problem, it's an opiate problem.And that can be Vicodin, that couldbe Oxycontin, that could be any prescription opiate medication.Heroin is an opiate.The powerful nature of the addictionmakes it unlike anything we've faced in a long time.

    • 25:16

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: It's so available.It's so prevalent, either heroin or unused medication.But the reason we focus a lot on unused prescription medicationis the vast majority of people that use heroinstart by abusing prescription medication.And a lot of times what will happenis it could be as simple as a sports injury where

    • 25:38

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: a high school athlete sprained her knee in a soccer game,never used drugs in her life.Goes to the doctor, is prescribed medication,and I do want to say that I'm not anti-medication.There's a very legitimate need for opiate pain medication.But what happens sometimes is these drugs are overprescribed,

    • 25:58

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: an addiction develops to the pain medication,and the straight-A student, captain of the soccer team kidwho you'd never think in your wildest dreams wouldget involved in heroin, develops this opiate addiction.And the black market for these pillsis sometimes upwards of $1 a milligram.So if you think about it, they're paying $1--

    • 26:19

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: or I'm sorry, $60 a pill.Or they can drive down the streetand buy heroin for $5, $10 and feel the same way.And that's how you see this tie-in from prescriptionmedication use to heroin use.So we have a big push underway knowingthat prescription medication, not onlyhave we seen overdose deaths by people using prescription

    • 26:40

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: medication in appropriately, but we've alsonoticed this tie-in between prescription medicationabuse and heroin.Because I think sometimes people think, well,if it comes in a nice little orange pill bottle,and it's made by a reputable mart manufacturer,well, it won't hurt me.Well, it will kill you if it's used in appropriately.So we need to get that message out there to our youth.

    • 27:01

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: We also know, where are they getting it from?Over 70% of people that abuse prescription medication,they get it from us.They get it from our medicine cabinets.They get it from grandma and grandpa's housewhere they're going in the medicine cabinetand taking their unused pills.We all have them in our medicine cabinets.We all have a half used jar of Vicodin,or Oxycontin or you name it, in our cabinet somewhere.

    • 27:24

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: So we have to get that stuff out of our house.So in Lake County we have a program underwaywhere we have 27 police departments,where people can bring their unused prescriptionmedication to those police departments, and drop it off.And it will be taken and properly disposed of.Last year we collected 12,000 pounds of pills.So think about that for a second.

    • 27:45

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: 12,000 pounds of pills.Lake County, just by way of trying to give youan idea of some of these numbers,were a little less than 5% of the populationof the State of Illinois, but that 12,000 pounds thatwere collected right here, and there's102 counties in Illinois, so we're just one of 102,we collected over 30% of all the unused medication in the state.

    • 28:08

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: And that just shows you that if you have it available,if you have these drop off sites available, people will come,and they'll dispose of their drugs.We had a police department, one of our smallest policedepartments, I think seven officers,they had an event two weekends ago on a Saturdaymorning where for three hours they opened up a fire stationand people could come in and drop offtheir unused medication.

    • 28:29

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: 300 pounds of pills in just three hours.So people will do it.And being able at the meeting to sit there and pullin the Deputy Sheriff who is in chargeof monitoring the take-back program in Lake County,and having him in the room, and being able to pull himaside and get an update, a real time update on how

    • 28:50

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: that program is going and what they're doing,and what they're seeing, and what they're collecting,and hearing feedback from them, is important.Some of the feedback we've heard isthere's a concern, for example, that peopleare putting not only medication but also needles in those bins.And we want to make sure that peopleknow they shouldn't be putting needles in those bins,because we don't want an officer to accidentally when they're

    • 29:11

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: collecting the drugs-- because they're literallyin a plastic garbage bag, so a needlecould easily go through there and brush upagainst somebody's leg.So we want to make sure the officers are safe.We also want to make sure we're getting the information outthere to the community, so they know where those sites are.And we do have needle disposal sites,but people need to know where they are sobeing able to have those conversations in real time

    • 29:33

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: with people that you work with every day is really important.We should work to get a list of where those needle take-backboxes are and get that out through the Opioid Initiativewebsite.

    • 29:42

      SPEAKER 1: We could actually probably attach that to the mapthat we already have with the boxes,so that people would know that in addition to the boxes,this is what's also available.Simple enough to do.

    • 29:50

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: Great.Awesome.Well, good work, keep it up.

    • 29:53

      SPEAKER 1: Mike, thank you very much, sir.

    • 29:54

      MICHAEL NERHEIM: Thank you.It's a tough job.You know, I love it it's the bestjob I have I've ever had or ever will have but it's tough.Some of the challenges are you see some awful thingson a daily basis.You see horrible things happeningto people and children, in particular,and that gets to you.But you also get to help people.You get to get involved in things like the Opioid

    • 30:15

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: Initiative where you can help your community.And you can look at an epidemic that'saffecting an entire region, and you can assemble a teamand really go to war against something.And that's really powerful.Or to be able to go to court and represent a victim,and bring justice to that victim.It really, by far, exceeds or outweighs the negatives.

    • 30:35

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: But the challenge is the emotional sideof things where you see horrible things happen to good people,where being criticized sometimes is tough.And look, you have to have a thick skinif you're going to do this job.You just have to do it, but we're all people.And I could sit here and tell you all day long, well,I don't read the comments.It doesn't bother me.I don't look at that stuff.

    • 30:56

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: And, generally, I don't.But I hear about them.And I'm not going to lie and say, oh, it doesn't bother mebecause it does.I'm a person and I know that my kids readsome of that stuff, where you read a paperand read a newspaper article and think, well,that's not what I said and that'snot what really happened.And that can be frustrating, but what you really have to dois just know in your heart that no matter what you do you're

    • 31:16

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: going to upset people.That's your job, your job as a prosecutor.I have to remind my wife all the timethat if I'm not making people mad, then I'm not doing my job.So you can't go into your job every daytrying to think about what are people going to likeor what are people going to want to hear?You just have to know going into it that whatever you do,you're going to upset some people,you know, ruffle some feathers.

    • 31:37

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: But you gotta do what you think is rightand do it for the right reason.And I believe that the vast majorityof people that you represent, that's what they want.Even if they might not agree with the decision you makeor the outcome of a case, if they thinkor, at least, if they believe in their heartthat it was made for the right reason,or at least they understand your reasoning,generally, they're going to be OK with it, again,

    • 31:58

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: even if they disagree with it.So those things can be challenging, though,the critical feedback you get sometimesthat isn't always accurate.In this day and age, it's really easy.Anybody can form an opinion with very little informationor no information, and they can make that opinion very publicwith social media and things like that.Again, with absolutely no information,

    • 32:19

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: but you just got to do a really good job of tryingnot to worry about that.The other frustrating part of our jobis, again, I would say the hardest part of our job,is when you have to look at a victim and somebodythat you really believe was a victim,but you also don't have enough evidence to prove a case.And you have to have a very difficult meeting with somebody

    • 32:40

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: and say, look, I believe this happened to you.I believe you were sexually assaulted, for example,but I can't prove it, and I can't charge this person.And that's tough, that is really hard to do.But having that communication and, again, if they believe,they're not going to like it.They're not going to agree with anything you say.But if they understand that you're being honest with them,

    • 33:02

      MICHAEL NERHEIM [continued]: that you're telling them like it is,and that they feel that you're at least being sincere,it's going to go a long way.But those are some of the pretty big challengeswe face every day.There are other things, you know,like budgets and all that kind of stuff that we deal with,but it's the emotional stuff, I think,that's probably the most challenging.

Representing the State & Community

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Michael Nerheim discusses his job as a state's attorney and the responsibilities of the position. The state's attorney is an elected position that speaks for the victims of crimes. Nerheim discusses punitive vs. preventative justice, his opioid initiative, and his prescription drop off program.

SAGE Video In Practice
Representing the State & Community

Michael Nerheim discusses his job as a state's attorney and the responsibilities of the position. The state's attorney is an elected position that speaks for the victims of crimes. Nerheim discusses punitive vs. preventative justice, his opioid initiative, and his prescription drop off program.

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