(Springfield, IL) – Advocates today welcomed a new heroin research initiative approved by Gov. Pat Quinn, but criticized budget cuts to Illinois drug treatment and prevention under the governor’s watch.
Quinn on Tuesday signed legislation to fight heroin use in communities across Illinois through a new law that will expand the scope of a special task force created last year to study heroin use in Illinois and make recommendations to increase awareness and prevention.
“Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to strengthen drug prevention efforts and save lives,” according to the governor’s press statement.
The legislation, House Bill 4542, sponsored by State Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) and State Senator Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park), expands the age range to be studied by the Young Adult Heroin Use Task Force to students in grades six through 12.
Quinn signed legislation in August 2013 to create the Young Adult Heroin Use Task Force to address the growing problem of heroin use in Illinois high schools. The new law expands the study to younger students.
“This devastating drug is hurting younger and younger students,” Cullerton said. “We need to accurately understand the scope of the heroin problem as we work to fix it.”
The head of Illinois’ top drug and alcohol treatment and prevention advocacy group welcomed Quinn’s signature on the new law, but warned that deep budget cuts over the last five years had worsened the Illinois heroin crisis.
“We thank Governor Quinn for signing the new youth heroin research law because more data will strengthen our drug prevention efforts,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “However, until recently, in the midst of an escalating epidemic of both heroin and non-medical use of prescription drugs particularly by young adults, state funding for addiction prevention and treatment has been consistently reduced, and these cuts have worsened the problem.”
Between Fiscal Year 2009 and Fiscal Year 2014, Quinn cut $52 million or 44% or in state funding for addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, Howe noted.
“Services for those struggling with addiction to alcohol and drugs were cut by $45 million or 41%,” Howe stated. “While services, designed to prevent the onset of alcohol and drugs, including heroin, primary alcohol and drug prevention was slashed by $6.6 million or 88%.”
Howe did highlight the efforts this year of State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) to boost the Illinois’ beleaguered prevention and treatment community service providers.
“We applaud the legislature, particularly Rep. Harris and Senator Steans, for recognizing this damaging downward trend and for increasing by 3% addiction treatment funding in Fiscal Year 2015,” Howe stated.
Howe expressed optimism about the efforts of a legislative panel created this year by House Speaker Michael Madigan that is tasked with addressing the Illinois problem.
“We continue to work with the House Heroin Task Force, and its chair, House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang, to ensure that both addiction prevention and treatment funding is increased in Fiscal Year 2016 as a central strategy to address the escalating heroin crisis in Illinois,” said Howe. “And we are hopeful that lawmakers will again be supportive.”
Howe also did credit Quinn for signing the Emergency Medical Services Access law in 2012, which provides immunity to a person who, in good faith, seeks or obtains emergency medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose.
“This law has saved lives and Governor Quinn does merit credit for approving this measure,” Howe added.