Illinois is Sick of Losing Its Citizens to Fatal Opioid Overdoses

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Overdoses from illicit drugs and prescription painkillers claim more than 45,000 lives in the U.S. each year.

In the face of such staggering numbers, many states are struggling to reduce the death toll. From mobile recovery efforts in New Jersey to increased access to medical treatment in New York, officials are willing to try just about everything.

Enter Illinois…

Illinois Legislators Step Up Tackle the Opioid Crisis

In Illinois, the latest effort put forth aims to cut overdose deaths by one-third over the next three years. The Prairie State has seen a four-fold increase in overdose deaths since 2013. This year, it’s expected nearly 2,000 of its’ residents will lose their lives to drug overdose.

In response, officials created a new opioid task force whose sole purpose is to reduce that number. How? Their efforts will be focused in three main areas:

  • Boosting prevention efforts
  • Increasing access to treatment
  • Responding more effectively

Tasks under these headings include increasing the number of providers that use the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program; strengthening data collection, analysis, and sharing; making resources more accessible to the public; reducing high-risk opioid prescribing; and increasing Naloxone training.

Providing and Expanding Treatment Options

Last year, 248,000 Illinois residents in desperate need of treatment didn’t receive it. Half the counties in the state don’t have access to medically assisted treatment (MAT).

The task force will work to improve these statistics by expanding access to Suboxone and methadone clinics, while making treatment more readily available to residents.

Currently, treatment access is unevenly distributed. Chicago’s Cook County has the most access to MAT, while the southern regions of the state have higher overdose rates and lower access to treatment.

Additional goals include providing substance abuse treatment for inmates and those being released from prison. They’d also like to make Narcan easily accessible in cases of opioid overdose.

The Illinois state task force is comprised of representatives from various agencies, including:

  • The Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board
  • Illinois State Police
  • Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
  • Illinois Healthcare and Family Services
  • Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Public Health Department
  • Corrections Department
  • Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

Think Big, Act Big, Save Lives

Officials admit their goals will require all-out efforts from throughout the state, at all levels. But here’s the thing, with the nation’s opioid epidemic showing no signs of slowing, it’s time to think big and act big. The solution to this problem hinges on cooperation and action from all levels.

Gov. Bruce Rauner explained, “The opioid crisis in Illinois affects people from all walks of life – small towns and big cities, the wealthy and the poor, young and old. Without treatment, people suffering from opioid use disorder risk dropping out of school, losing their job, becoming homeless, losing custody of their children, or getting arrested. This is not a problem that government, health care, police, schools, communities or others can solve on their own. We must all work together.”

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