After conducting four meetings last summer on heroin and opioid abuse in the 14th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, released a 13-page Heroin Community Action Plan to combat addiction.
Since then, Hultgren has been seeking ways to be more effective in preventing and countering heroin addiction, the report stated.
The efforts included drug take-back days for unused prescription painkillers, as well as county naloxone programs that save lives by reversing opioid overdose deaths, the report stated.
Barriers to treatment remain, however, because of lack of funding for treatment beds and lack of long-term beds, insurance coverage and widespread mental health issues, the report stated.
Recommendations included reallocating funds for inpatient addiction treatment in Illinois; supplementing treatment with long-term sober living arrangements to prevent relapse; increasing access to naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan; and giving students an incentive to attend drug prevention presentations, the report stated.
Illinois remains near the bottom of states when it comes to drug addiction treatment funding, the report stated. When people suffering from addiction seek inpatient services, the state does not adequately fund treatment centers, the report stated.
Hultgren’s report seeks finding “creative ways to fund expanded access to treatment. … [and] ways to finance more beds.”
In 2016, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a law that authorizes federal grants to address the national epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse, the report stated.
The four meetings over the summer documented what different counties in the 14th Congressional District did – and outlined what still needs to be done going forward, the report stated.
Lake County launched “A Way Out,” allowing addicts to come to a police station and bring their drug paraphernalia without any questions asked, the report stated.
DuPage County collected 70,000 pounds of unused prescription opioids and launched its own Narcan program.
Kane County’s Narcan program saved 32 lives.
Lake and DuPage counties are creating a Chicago Opioid Awareness Task Force involving Cook, Kane, Will and McHenry counties to more accurately classify overdose deaths as caused by heroin or fentanyl.
The report identified educating the public as a key area where more work is needed as “many communities, schools and parents do not want to admit they have a problem.”
Another key area is that addiction is complicated by widespread mental health issues, according to the report, as people suffering from mental illness – such as depression – use heroin to self-medicate. Heroin is a strong anti-depressant.
People in recovery are in need of long-term support to remain sober as detox and treatment are short-term, the report stated.
“Individuals who do not get enough detox days and are not offered a sober home living option are the most likely to overdose and die,” the report stated.
Hultgren’s report also stated that Narcan should not require a prescription.
More information about Hultgren’s efforts against heroin and opioid addiction are available by visiting http://hultgren.house.gov/heroin.