By Bob Balgemann


The Boone County Health Department is moving forward in its massive battle against drug use.

A veteran City of Belvidere police officer is being transferred to that department to be part of the effort while an entry-level officer is being hired to backfill that departure from the force.

While council has approved both of those steps, the question of paying for expenses not covered by the $94,077.38 Comprehensive Opioid Stimulant and Substance Program (COSSAP) grant, received by the health department, remained under discussion.

Alderman Tom Porter brought it back up again, at the May 10 Committee of the Whole meeting. After making a few comments he made the motion to recommend asking the county board to consider splitting any costs not covered by the grant. The second came from Alderman Ric Brereton. The motion passed in a voice vote, with one dissenting.

City Attorney Mike Drella will draft a letter to that effect, to the attention of county board Chairman Karl Johnson.

Overtime paid to the veteran officer was and continued to be a concern.

In February 2021, with discussion in its early stages, Police Chief Shane Woody provided details in response to what he said, “may be a little confusion.”

He continued: “The grant is going to cover the bulk of the costs to the City of Belvidere. Overtime would be closely monitored; that could potentially be an additional cost.”

On May 10, Porter said he wanted more discussion on the motion made by Brereton, at the May 3 meeting, to share with the county any costs that were not covered by the COSSAP grant. That motion failed, 6-4.

“This is going to cost the taxpayers a lot more than overtime,” Alderman Marsha Freeman said at the committee meeting. “That, and I’m going to be tracking a lot of stats in this. If this is working, the number of incarcerated drug offenders should be dropping in the county.

“I’m also concerned that a lot of people in our county jail aren’t even from Boone County. So they would be getting the services. I’m OK if the out-of-county residents are charged for those services while they’re inmates.”

Some answers

Amy Gallano, deputy director of the County Probation Department, provided some answers.

“Inmates will not be charged for services,” she began. “The outreach when they’re out of jail will only be for Boone County residents.”

She added that it was her wish that the incarceration level would be decreasing. “Our goal is also to reduce overdoses and calls for service,” she said. “They’re (calls) not always criminal in nature, but they do not know who else to call. The goal is that the COSSAP officer will do those calls.”

Woody said it also was a goal to see a decrease in crime in general. “The COSSAP officer would provide early intervention to interrupt the drug abuse cycle,” he added. “We’re looking at the big picture.”

With a vote at hand, Drella said the motion that night “just has to do with the overtime issue. All other expenses, the phone, car, are taken care of by the grant.”

Porter said he didn’t see any reason why the county would reject the city request to share in expenses not covered by the grant. “I do want to be sure we cover all the costs,” he stressed.

In response to a question from newly elected Alderman Sheryl Prather, Gallano said there were 17 partners in this effort, who had been meeting regularly since 2017. There also is a smaller committee “to be sure things are moving along,” she said, adding that county health department. administrator Amanda Mehl was “the driving force, that’s for sure. It’s really for the whole community.”

Prather commended the coalition “and everything it has been doing to this point, and for the example that has been put forth in leadership combatting this issue.”

The vote followed to ask the county if it would consider sharing in costs of the police officer not covered by the COSSAP grant.

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