Senators push legislation to combat fentanyl epidemic

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:24 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Opioid deaths in Illinois have increased twentyfold in one decade, and a large part of the deaths have to do with the powerful, lab-made fentanyl.

Legislation moving through the Illinois statehouse looks to partially decriminalize having synthetic opioids in one’s system to encourage more people to seek help and treatment. They are also looking to combat previously “War on Drug” inspired policies, which Sen. Robert Peters (D - Chicago) called a “relic” of policies.

One proposal would provide immunity for those seeking medical treatment who have opioids in their system, such as victims of sexual assault or overdose. It would provide immunity for the person who calls emergency services or brings someone who is suffering an overdose to a facility as well.

In the last year, 2,944 people died from drug overdoses. The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates eight Illinois residents die every day from an overdose.

“Whether you do live in a town with 4,000 people or you live in a city with two million people, anytime there’s a fentanyl death that’s a tragedy,” Peters said. “It wrecks a community and wrecks a neighborhood.”

Executive Assistant at Contact Ministries and former EMT Stacy Coon said she’s seen families or people with their lives disrupted by their addiction.

“They’re no longer able to hold down jobs, they’re not able to ever get their children back,” Coon said. “They get addicted to the drug that they didn’t even know there was fentanyl in to begin with.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Laura Ellman (D - Naperville) looks to beef up penalties for those who mix fentanyl with other substances.

Peters is sponsoring legislation that aims to prevent opioid deaths by providing testing equipment to pharmacies that will direct patients and users in how to administer the test. It’s similar to measures that provide clean needles to drug addicts, in order to avoid the spread of HIV/AIDS.

These tests would not necessarily be administered by the state, but the bill would decriminalize possessing drug testing kits. Currently, it’s illegal for pharmacists or individuals to possess them.

These measures are as vital as NarCan, argues Multree-area Pharmacist Cindi Reed. She and other local pharmacists are calling for support of the bill because they would be better able to educate locals and promote safer use while they recover.

“These events are happening in Illinois, not just in the cities or the suburbs, but in rural communities,” Reed said. “Quite frankly, no one deserves to die because they contaminated or alternated drugs.”

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