On March 2nd, 2015, a news conference was held to announce the introduction of legislation to combat opiate abuse in the state of Illinois. Republican Reps. John Anthony of Plainfield, John Cabello of Loves Park and former Rep. Dennis Reboletti joined Assistant House Majority Leader, Lou Lan,D-Skokie. A 2014 task force found that the opiate abuse problem was much worse than Lang had previously expected. This led Assistant House Majority Leader Lang to file House Bill 1.
House Bill 1 looks to fight the opiate epidemic form a variety of different angles instead of just focusing on rehabilitation treatment. The bill includes provisions for Prescription Drop Offs, where old medications can be disposed of properly. The bill also provides first responding departments free access to the life-saving drug Naloxone (Narcam) which is used to reverse opiate overdoses. The bill also limits the number of addictive medication to a 10-day supply at a time and changes Medicaid to cover rehabilitation services. Most importantly, money has also been allocated for education in schools and neighborhoods.
Illinois faces tough fiscal times and may need new revenue streams to fund the initiative that is estimated to cost around $25 million. Lang does however think that the program will be worth the funding.
The bill will not be popular to all of the politicians. The high price tag and the restrictions put on prescription painkillers and requirements for pharmacies to serve as prescription “drop off” sites will be fought hard by the powerful pharmaceutical and hospital lobbyists. Many will also oppose the government having too much control of what doctors are able to prescribe. This bill will try to regulate how many prescription painkillers a doctor may prescribe and this is expected to receive a lot of push back as well.
One part of House Bill 1 that can not be argued is the effectiveness of Naloxone. Naloxone is often nicknamed the “second chance drug” because of how effective it is at reversing opiate overdoses. The bill will allow all first responders to carry this drug on their persons at no cost to the agencies and will certainly save many lives in the process. Many times police officers are the first responders on scene. “They’re not for sure if that person is overdosed or not, because they’re not a medical person,” said Talluto. “They can administer that drug, and there are no ill effects against an individual if they are not an overdose victim.”
House Bill 1 is a step in the right direction at curbing the opiate abuse issues in the state of Illinois. With an epidemic on the rise and hundreds of lives taken each year, major changes are necessary. Not every aspect of this bill will be well received, but it has the potential to save countless lives.