Rauner establishes task force to combat Illinois’ opioid scourge

Oct 06, 2017

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order on Wednesday establishing a task force aimed at combating the state’s opioid scourge.

The Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force will be led by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah, and will identity ways to stem the growing opioid and heroin epidemic and reduce the number of overdose deaths.

Rauner said in a statement strategies to improve the treatment and recovery of those addicted to opioids will be the focus of the task force.

“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,” Rauner said in a statement. “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.”

According to provisional data released by IDPH on Aug. 7, the number of overdose deaths involving heroin in 2016 increased by 19.4 percent from the previous year. Since 2013, that number has risen by nearly 73 percent.

Overdose deaths in which any opioid was a contributing cause spiked by 36.7 percent between 2016 and 2015, and 76.2 percent since 2013.

Opioid analgesics, which includes relatively new and far more potent drugs like fentanyl and tramadol, were a contributing cause in more than 1,200 overdose deaths last year—a 109 percent increase from 2015 alone—though it’s important to note medical examiners only recently began testing for these powerful opioids.

James Dimas, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, said in a statement that it’s time to eliminate the stigma associated with addiction and treat it like a chronic disease.

“It is time we understand and treat substance-use disorder as a chronic disease and eliminate the stigma that prevents individuals struggling with opioid use from seeking care,” he said.

“With evidence from years of scientific research to support us, Illinois is ready to shatter the image of substance use disorder as a ‘moral failing’ and treat it as any other chronic illness.

Increasing the availability of naloxone, boosting the number of providers that use the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program, reducing high-risk opioid prescribing, improving data collection, and making more information and resources available to the public are among the key strategies of the action plan released by the governor’s office.

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