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How Chicago is Trying to Fight Heroin Epidemic and the Subsequent Rise in Violent Crimes

The opiate epidemic has taken up a large fierce shape in the nation, and Chicago hasn't remained untouched. According to the numbers shared by the state government's Department of Public Health, close to 2,113 people died between 2013 and 2015 due to heroin overdose. About 1,425 of these people died in Chicago alone.

The Situation Could Be Worse Than Expected
Those numbers could be much higher, said Melaney Arnold, who's a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health. "Heroin overdose deaths have been under-reported previously and it's possible they could be way under-reported right now." She said that the death reports in such cases didn't always mention "heroin overdose" as the actual cause of death. The reports would often be labeled with "opiate intoxication" or plain and simple "overdose" with no mention of what substance was abused.

Rise In Number Of Deaths Is Alarming
Health professionals like O'Neil noticed the problem more than a few years ago. "If you notice, before 1999, we'd get perhaps one heroin death every year in the county, but it jumped all of a sudden to five per year and then just kept increasing," claimed O'Neil. The rate at which this epidemic is growing across all the collar counties of Chicago is alarming, to say the least.

Subsequent Rise In Violent Crimes
Chicago has become a city going through a tough time with the violent crime epidemic as well. There have been reports of more than 3,000 people who've been shot this year alone. If this wasn't scary enough, the count of homicides has crossed 500. In 2012, the percent of patients admitted to hospitals for heroin addiction or overdose related treatment was twice the national average.

What Chicago Is Doing To Fight Back
A new 250+ page law passed recently will make Medicaid pay for the treatment of any medication-based substance abuse and also authorize the pharmacies to dispense drugs for heroin addiction reversal drugs. Not just this, it allows for a school nurse to closely administer the reversal drugs for the patient, and tries to impose strict reporting on healthcare professionals in order to gain more accurate data, among a few more important mandates.

Offer Healthcare Instead Of Imprisonment
The law aims at taking the focus off of imposing criminal punishments and instead placing it on the importance of treatment for drug users by letting them stay in healthcare facilities instead of putting them behind the bars. The law claims to be a much bigger attempt at fighting the heroin epidemic than what any other state in the US has done.

Federal Efforts Can't Be Ignored
The White House has taken a serious look at the state of heroin epidemic in the nation over the last year. Federal agencies have come up with multiple initiatives to battle the abuse of not just heroin but other opioid-based drugs as well. Some of these proposed initiatives include making the treatment more accessible to the patients, making improvements in the prescription drug monitoring system, and education the prescribers further.

President Has Noted It As A High Priority Task
President Obama has taken serious measures to label the opioid epidemic as a serious task at hand for the country. He has already supported the sanctioning for $1.1 bn to effectively support the opioid treatment across the nation. Once this funding is approved by the Center, the money will be then dispersed to each state. Under this budget proposal, Illinois qualifies to receive close to $28 million in funding for battling the opioid epidemic in the state.


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