Illinois Responds to a Growing Heroin Problem

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Illinois Responds to a Growing Heroin Problem

By Zachary Siegel 03/30/15

Illinois' solution to a growing heroin problem includes an overdose prevention clinic and a new naloxone bill on its way to the Senate floor.

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In the past week, two major developments in Illinois occurred that directly address the ongoing spike in opioid overdoses. First, a clinic opened in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs that will distribute naloxone and second, the senate’s public health committee voted unanimously in favor of Lali’s Law, which would make it legal for pharmacies to dispense naloxone, an antidote that reverses opioid overdose, and also train people to administer the drug to someone overdosing. 

With permission from the Illinois Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the first of its kind overdose prevention clinic in Illinois is allowed to freely distribute naloxone to anyone who may need it, including drug users themselves. 

Volunteers will run the clinic, which involves training people to administer naloxone, providing opioid overdose education, offering treatment referrals, and being a safe place for concerned families and loved ones to get support. The increasing number of heroin overdoses occurring around Chicago has directly affected many of the volunteers wiling to help the cause. There will also be a medical doctor on staff. 

Chelsea Laliberete, a loud voice in overdose prevention activism, who also started the Live4Lali organization with her family after losing her brother Alex to an overdose in 2008, thanked her mother and all of the volunteers on Thursday night's grand opening. 

And with respect to the new bill, dubbed Lali's Law, Chelsea told The Fix that, “It creates a very needed and obvious access point to a lifesaving intervention in naloxone.” 

“Hundreds of thousands of people enter their local Duane Reade, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid everyday to get their prescription medications and syringes,” Chelsea said. “So why shouldn’t they also be able to get the drug that’s going to save their life if they overdose?” 

Illinois recently elected Bruce Rauner as governor, a republican who slashed funding for addiction treatment. We asked Chelsea if she was nervous to bring the bill in front of conservative Rauner and she boldly stated, “I have no fear…at this point, it’s almost irresponsible not to pass this bill.” 

Stay tuned for further groundbreaking developments coming out of Chicago’s suburbs. 

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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.

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