Heroin proposal heads back to lawmakers after Rauner's veto

  • A proposal aimed at curbing heroin abuse goes back to the legislature after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it Monday.

    A proposal aimed at curbing heroin abuse goes back to the legislature after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it Monday.

 
 

Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday rewrote a sweeping proposal aimed at curbing the heroin abuse that has plagued some suburbs in recent years, saying that while he supports much of it, the plan should be changed to limit costs for the state.

The plan sent to Rauner tried to focus drug courts on treatment instead of jail, and the state would cover treatment for Medicaid users. It also would have required all police and fire departments in the state to stock a heroin antidote that has been shown to save people from overdose deaths, plus train personnel on how to administer it.

Last year, 33 people died in DuPage County from heroin overdoses, helping prompt a response from state lawmakers.

"I support all of the above measures and applaud the multifaceted approach to combating this epidemic in Illinois," Rauner said in his veto message. "Unfortunately, the bill also includes provisions that will impose a very costly mandate on the state's Medicaid providers."

Rauner says the plan requires the state to cover opioid drug treatments and takes power away from doctors to manage treatments. He deleted about 22 lines in a 256-page bill that said Medicaid has to cover opioid drug addiction treatment without some of the cost controls Rauner favors.

"Doctors should be able to work with individuals addicted to opioids to arrive at a reasonable, comprehensive treatment plan," he said.

The changes mean the proposal won't become law yet, if ever. It will head back to lawmakers who can either adopt the governor's changes, override him or let the plan languish.

Rauner's move might not sit well with Democratic lawmakers who pushed the proposal through the House and Senate this spring after making some changes.

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State Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and lead author of the plan, said Monday he plans to file a motion to override Rauner's changes. He said the changes send a "bad message" that only those who are insured will receive help from the state.

The state response is one of many efforts to curb heroin use, from training for high school coaches in DuPage County to the development of an addiction hotline in Lake County.

Lang's legislation was nearly derailed by financial concerns, as estimates about the cost of the program have ranged from $15 million to $58 million at a time when the state hasn't yet completed a new spending plan after the old one ran out at the end of June.

• Staff writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.

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