The Heroin Crisis Act Unanimously Passes Through Illinois House

By Zachary Siegel 05/28/15

A new bill addressing heroin overdoses and mortality has moved on to the senate.

Illinois General Assembly
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A group of heroin and opioid overdose prevention activists are rejoicing in Chicago, as the Heroin Crisis Act has passed the Illinois State House.

“This bill very much reflects what activists have the power to achieve,” said Chelsea Laliberte, an activist who lost her brother to a heroin overdose in 2008.

The Heroin Crisis Act is a direct response to the staggering mortality rates seen in Chicago and throughout the midwest region. From 2000-2013, the rate of drug-poisoning fatalities involving heroin increased for all regions of the country, but the greatest increase was seen in the Midwest, according to the CDC.

Starting July 1, it will be required that the medical director of the Department of Public Health write a standing order enabling all pharmacies to dispense an opioid overdose antidote like naloxone to both drug users and their loved ones without discrimination.

Not only can pharmacies now prescribe opioid overdose reversal drugs to anyone but the new act also requires that firemen, police officers, even school nurses, carry the drug and receive the training to administer it properly.

Live4Lali, co-founded by Laliberte and named after her brother Alex, is an organization that, among other things, hosts naloxone administration trainings in their new clinic. “I am thrilled because this [bill] is proof that advocacy works in profound ways. It is proof that our approach to dealing with drugs in America has not worked in the past and with a bit of education, change is possible,” she said.

Another critical problem this new bill addresses is the reporting of drug overdose by coroners. Medical examiners and coroners are now required to report to the Department of Public Health all cases where a drug overdose is determined to be the cause of or a major factor in one’s death. Such a requirement will create up to date statistics which are important for first responders and further policymaking.

The bill amends drug court programs to keep users in treatment and out of jails and establishes drug education program in schools. Newly elected Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed some $300 million in budget cuts, with healthcare for lower-income people making up the bulk of that number. Given this, it will take some time to determine how funds for the Heroin Crisis Act will be allocated in order for change to happen.

“Millions of people had to die for us to get here—let's not let them down,” Laliberte said.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.