Edward-Elmhurst chief medical officer speaks for Haymarket treatment facility in Itasca
A regional health care leader says opening a controversial addiction treatment center in Itasca would help hospitals in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Dr. Daniel Sullivan, chief medical officer of Edward-Elmhurst Health, is supporting Haymarket Center's proposal to turn a former hotel into a 240-bed treatment facility for patients with substance-use disorders.
Sullivan made the case for the project to Itasca's plan commission on Wednesday. He said having a regional drug treatment in the Western suburbs provides a resource for patients with or without insurance.
"Our major gap right now is access to care, and Haymarket can and will bridge that gap, particularly for those most in need," Sullivan said.
The public hearing was held without residents attending in person, but it still attracted an audience. More than 1,000 people viewed the meeting in less than 24 hours on the village's YouTube page.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid overdoses and deaths have risen significantly. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, DuPage County experienced 70 overdose deaths in the first six months of 2020, compared to 46 in 2019 during the same six-month period.
Edward-Elmhurst is projecting the year will close with 1,000 opioid episodes in the system's emergency rooms.
"COVID has made this epidemic significantly worse, and the need for treatment just intensified," Sullivan said.
The county has seen successes training first responders on how to administer an overdose-reversing medication commonly known as Narcan. Efforts also have focused on training physicians to initiate medication-assisted treatment for addiction, Sullivan said.
But hospitals face challenges quickly linking patients to treatment programs because of inadequate access, particularly for those who don't have insurance or who have Medicaid, Sullivan said.
"If you don't offer them a good option, they will leave, and if they leave, the cycle just repeats itself over and over again," Sullivan said.
Haymarket would have the ability to treat uninsured and underinsured patients. It would also be a more practical geographical location to DuPage patients, Sullivan said.
"They make it easy for providers, and they make it easy for patients to get into their program," Sullivan said.
A group of residents is strongly opposed to the proposal. Members of the Concerned Citizens of Itasca said say the town of roughly 8,000 people lacks the infrastructure needed to support a treatment center that would see roughly 4,750 patients a year.
"Haymarket continues to fight a one-sided battle, with presentations aimed at proving something we all know: addiction treatment is important and necessary," said Dustin Sneath, a group member. "What we're continuing to debate is whether or not a 240-bed treatment facility is harmonious with the surrounding businesses and nearby homes of an 8,000-person community, without effective public transit and limited emergency resources."
The next public hearing on the project is scheduled for Nov. 4.
• Daily Herald staff writer Katlyn Smith contributed to this report