State must make heroin battle a priority
The call by the Daily Herald for the public to prioritize the heroin epidemic accurately reflects the urgency of the crisis, ("Tenacity in the battle against heroin in the suburbs," Sept 28), but Gov. Pat Quinn, who has largely ignored the problem, must also embrace the heroin crisis as a public health priority. Community groups, social service agencies, churches, the DuPage County state's attorney and suburban police departments have made the heroin problem a priority.
In fact, the Illinois Collaboration on Youth and the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association are holding a town-hall meeting on youth and illegal drugs at the Wheeling Township Community Center on Oct. 23, an event that will include panelists state Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), state Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Westmont), and Anne Studzinski of the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition.
However, until recently, in the midst of an escalating epidemic of heroin by young adults, state funding for addiction prevention and treatment has been consistently cut, worsening the problem. Between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2014, Quinn cut $52 million or 44 percent in state funding for drug prevention and treatment. Treatment services were cut by $45 million or 41 percent, while prevention services, designed to blunt the onset of alcohol and drug abuse, including heroin, were slashed by $6.6 million or 88 percent.
Fortunately, this year, state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) sought to reverse the years of cuts by the Quinn administration by increasing addiction treatment funding by 3 percent in 2015.
The public, social service agencies and local public officials have made the battle against heroin a priority. What the battle needs is for the next governor, who will assume office in January, to make it a priority, too.
Sara Moscato Howe
CEO, Illinois Alcoholism & Drug Dependence Association