'Lali's Law' is a legacy of saving lives

Posted4/21/2016 1:00 AM
  • Chelsea Laliberte

    Chelsea Laliberte

  • U.S. Rep. Bob Dold

    U.S. Rep. Bob Dold

By U.S. Rep. Bob Dold and Chelsea Laliberte

Guest columnists

Alex Laliberte played sports at Stevenson High School, did well in school and cared about his friends and family, but during his sophomore year of college, he was repeatedly hospitalized for a mysterious illness. Unknown to his family and doctors, Alex had an addiction to prescription drugs and was being hospitalized for his withdrawal. He would stay in the hospital until his symptoms subsided, then he would use again and repeat the cycle.

Alex continued this pattern until he died of a drug overdose a few days after his final exams. Sadly, Alex is what the face of opioid addiction looks like today -- it could be anyone.

Heroin users frequently say the gateway to their drug addiction was taking a friend or relative's prescription drugs. In fact, statistics show that nearly one-third of heroin users began by using a prescription drug recreationally. Cheaper than cigarettes and more accessible than alcohol, heroin has become a plague on communities across the country. Heroin now takes a life every three days in Chicago's collar counties and every day in Cook County.

But, there is hope.

Thanks to the great work of the Lake County Opioid Initiative, we've already had tremendous success saving lives with the overdose reversal aid naloxone. When used, naloxone helps restore breathing that has been stopped by an overdose. First responders in Lake County have saved 61 lives in just a little over a year. That's 61 families who won't have to experience the same type of unbearable pain. And the drug is having similar results throughout Cook, Kane, DuPage and McHenry counties.

With increased access, the World Health Organization predicts naloxone could save another 20,000 lives every year in the United States.

Naloxone could have saved Alex's life, but he died before he ever had the chance to seek help for his opioid dependency. That's why we partnered to introduce the bipartisan Lali's Law in Alex's memory. The primary purpose of the bill is to help fund state programs that allow pharmacists to distribute naloxone without a prescription and increase access to this lifesaving antidote and prevent a repeat of Alex's story.

Many states use these programs to allow local law enforcement officers to carry and use naloxone.

Lali's Law is an example of what is possible when we set aside partisanship to help real people. The bipartisan bill will bring Alex's story to the United States Congress and amplify the lifesaving benefit of similar legislation named after Alex that was passed into law in Illinois last year.

In Alex's memory, we hope to see a country with far fewer tragic stories like Alex's and far more chances to recover. We hope that Alex's lasting legacy will include helping countless people find a second chance at recovery and saving their families from unbearable heartbreak.

Together, we can save lives.

U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, is a Republican from Kenilworth. Chelsea Laliberte is co-founder of Live4Lali and Alex Laliberte's sister.

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