DeKalb County leaders discuss growing opioid overdoses with Lt. Governor

DEKALB, Ill. (WIFR) -- More than 63,000 Americans lost their lives to overdoses in 2016 and that number is rapidly growing. Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti held a field hearing with DeKalb County leaders Tuesday in an effort to combat this crisis.

Over the course of three years, the Governor’s Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force plans to reduce opioid-related deaths by one third.

"We all know we can't arrest our way out of this epidemic. It affects every county differently and we see the way that every county could respond is different based upon the resources that they have," said Sanguinetti.

That's why Sanguinetti, who co-chairs the task force, has been traveling around Illinois holding roundtables to find out how different communities are responding.

"We know that this epidemic, it's an equal opportunity aggressor, it knows no neighborhood, no color, no class and this is why we need to relieve that stigma and find out how we can best attack this problem in our own community," said Sanguinetti.

Leaders discussed other ways to solve the issue including a bill that could allow doctors to prescribe marijuana instead of opioids.

"The social services and the psychologists are going to be an important part of the solution where we help people overcome the problems that they have so that they don't have to turn on such things as drugs to relieve the pain that they feel or the mental issues that they have. It's an issue that we can't ignore," said 70th District Illinois State Representative Bob Pritchard.

"There is hope, a lot of people say ‘well if you have opioid use disorder, that's it, you're going to die.’ That's not true, there's recovery and there's light at the end of the tunnel," said Sanguinetti.

Sanguinetti says the task force has been able to receive federal funding and now has a standing order with Narcan, which is the biggest resuscitator for people experiencing an overdose.

The DeKalb Police Department is implementing Project HOPE, which is an effort to streamline the process for people experiencing opioid abuse.