The Lake County News-Sun - Aug. 28, 2015 | Original article

By State Senator Melinda Bush

We have a heroin crisis in this state. Illinoisans are dying of heroin overdoses at twice the rate they were in 1999. Since 2012, in the Chicago suburbs alone, an average of three people have died a day.

This week, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto of the Heroin Crisis Act, a proposal I supported in the Senate that seeks to address the epidemic of narcotic use in Illinois.

He declined to sign this bill unless the State of Illinois removes investments in treatment for those who need help covering the insurance costs.

As a society, we are coming to grips with the reality that drug addiction is not a war, but a public health concern — that the answer is not brutish incarceration but medical treatment. Substance abuse costs our nation over $600 billion annually, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, treatment can reduce these costs far more effectively than incarceration.

A year of methadone treatment costs $4,700 per patient. A year of imprisonment in the State of Illinois costs $38,000. According to conservative estimates, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of $4 to $7 as we prevent drug-related crime. The governor would have us believe that we can't afford to spend money on treatment — the fact is, we can't afford not to.

One of the provisions in the Heroin Crisis Act, Lali's Law, would expand pharmacists' ability to dispense the heroin antidote Narcan. Lali's Law is a direct result of years of work between my office and the bi-partisan Lake County Opioid Initiative, and is an example of the forward-thinking approach we in Lake County are taking to this heroin crisis. Expanded access to a safe and effective heroin antidote will only help save lives.

Gov. Rauner's veto has effectively delayed action on a proposal that passed without opposition in the House and with a strong majority in the Senate; on a solution that every policymaker, every activist, every law enforcement organization and many members of the governor's own party have called for. Instead of having a law that could be addressing this issue now, it could be months before we see one, at a time when people are literally dying each day.

If, like me, you would like to know why Gov. Rauner has declined to act, I urge you to contact him and make your feelings known.

Category: In The News

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