House moves DuPage-inspired package to curb heroin abuse
The fight against heroin abuse in the suburbs took a major legislative step forward Wednesday, as the House unanimously approved a package of legislation based largely on experiences from DuPage County.
Illinois lawmakers put the state budget aside for a few minutes Wednesday as they approved the proposal despite uncertainty on its cost.
The plan, drawn up by state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, moved out of the Illinois House with a vote of 114-0. The plan now moves to the Illinois Senate, which will have to move quickly if it's to reach Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk before lawmakers are supposed to adjourn Sunday.
Lang says DuPage County has helped pave the way for his proposal through the county's use of Narcan, a heroin overdose reversal drug, and its education efforts on the danger of heroin.
"DuPage County is a model county," Lang said. "A lot of what's in this bill is extrapolated from what the folks of DuPage County have done."
Leaders in DuPage, including former state Rep. Dennis Reboletti and DuPage County Coroner Rich Jorgensen, have been putting on seminars as far back as 2012 educating residents on heroin and the telltale signs that someone is addicted to the drug, state Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, says.
Lang's comprehensive plan focuses on reducing heroin abuse in part by giving addicts more opportunities to reclaim their lives through drug courts and Narcan.
While Lang's original proposal saw opposition from doctors, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, he says there is no opposition to the proposal now, though some agencies are concerned with the cost.
Lang says there is no price tag on the plan yet, and he hopes to see numbers soon.
And at a time when the Illinois General Assembly is finding it difficult to agree on a state budget plan, this proposal had clear bipartisan support.
"It (the threat of heroin abuse) doesn't matter which neighborhood, which demographic, which ethnicity. And it hit my county particularly hard and we've had a number of deaths," Sandack said. "Obviously we're concerned about costs, so this legislation is still subject to appropriations, but it speaks to a societal need."
Drug courts, Lang says, help "move away from the criminal model for drug addicts to a rehab model."
The criminal model hasn't been working, Lang says, and drug courts are more likely to give addicts the services they need to get their lives back. His proposal would provide more training for prosecutors and judges who deal with drug courts.
The plan also includes a wider use of Narcan by first responders.
"The bill requires that every first responder has Narcan available," Lang said. "Every police department, fire department, ambulance company has to have Narcan available."
The drug could be stored at police or fire stations and doesn't necessarily have to be in police cars, Lang said