The Quad-City Times - July 20, 2016 | Original article

By Dan Petrella

SPRINGFIELD — Participants in drug court programs across Illinois will be allowed to use medication to combat opioid addiction under a new state law that will take effect Jan. 1.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure late last week that prevents judges from barring drug court participants from using medications such as methadone when prescribed by a doctor to treat opioid addiction. At the same time, Rauner signed another measure, also effective Jan. 1, requiring substance abuse programs licensed by the Illinois Department of Human Services to provide educational information on medication-based treatments and the use of anti-overdose drugs.

Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University in Chicago, said the new laws are important steps in strengthening efforts to combat the state’s growing heroin- and opioid-addiction crisis.

The drug court bill in particular will ensure that people struggling with addiction have access to the most effective treatments, Kane-Willis said.

Drug courts are an alternative to jail or prison for people who have been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. Participants make regular court appearances and undergo addiction treatment.

However, despite research showing the effectiveness of medication-based treatments, some courts have required participants to refrain using medications as a condition of completing the program, according to the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy.

“People have died as a result of being forced to get off of medication-assisted treatment to complete drug court,” Kane-Willis said.

Both laws were designed to fill in gaps in a major anti-opioid law the General Assembly passed last year with overwhelming bipartisan support. State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, was the lead sponsor of last year’s package and this year’s bills, and state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, shepherded them through the upper chamber.

“This is part of our continued shift toward treating drug addiction like what it is: A devastating health concern that becomes the root cause of other personal and societal ills,” Bush of the drug court bill in a prepared statement. “We want to ensure that there is no gap in doctor-prescribed medication for those trying to overcome addiction. We won’t deny someone the treatment they need.”

Dennis McGuire, deputy director of the drug court program in McLean County, said officials there will need to review and discuss the new law, but he doesn’t foresee it requiring any major changes.

“We’re going to rely on our treatment providers to come up with the best course of action on how to treat the individual client,” McGuire said.

There are currently about 40 people going through the program, which he said is reserved for “high-risk, high-need individuals.”

Read the original article at the Quad-City Times.

Category: In The News

State Senator Melinda BushLake County News-Sun - May 27, 2016 | Original article

By Megan Jones

Community members from Waukegan, Peoria and Vermilion teamed together this week to promote changing the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's rules regarding coal-ash pond removal.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board is considering state rules, but the activists are asking for stronger, more enforceable procedures.

Coal ash is the waste left over from burning coal, which contains arsenic, selenium and mercury that can impact the air and drinking water of the communities, said Jessica Dexter, staff attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. According to the Sierra Club, most ponds are lined in hopes that the ash does not contaminate the groundwater, but the IEPA found contaminated groundwater at every site tested.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, spoke at the Springfield conference and said she questions what the plant's effects are to residents who live near the pollution.

"Frankly, we have air-quality issues in Lake County, and having a coal plant certainly adds to that," she said. "We have higher rates of asthma and allergies with those irritations in the air."

Read the full article at the Lake County News-Sun here.

Category: In The News

KHQA ABC 7 News, Quincy, Ill. - May 11, 2016 | Original report

By Camille Smith

(KHQA) -- In Illinois, feminine hygiene products are taxed in the same category as your shampoo.

Women in Illinois pay a 6.25 percent sales tax every time they buy tampons, pads or menstrual cups.

That's because the state classifies those products as "luxury items."

"I'd like to think every woman knows being on their period is no luxury, certainly shouldn't be taxed like one," Illinois Senator Melinda Bush said.

Senator Bush said it is time to end what she calls an unfair tax on women.

She's introduced Senate Bill 2746, which would eliminate the tax once and for all.

"What we're really talking about here is a bigger global issue and that's that women have been paying more for things throughout their lives and maybe don't even know it," Bush said.

Read the full report here.

Category: In The News

Sen. Bush reacts to Sen. Toi Hutchinson's statement in support of repealing the tampon taxAssociated Press - April 21, 2016 | Original article

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — Illinois lawmakers are advancing proposals that would make feminine hygiene products and contraception more affordable for women.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure on Thursday that would exempt feminine hygiene products from the state sales tax. The plan heading to the House is a part of a national movement to eliminate the so-called "pink tax."

The average statewide sales tax is 6.25 percent but can be as high as 10.25 percent in Chicago.

House lawmakers narrowly approved a plan that would make it easier and more affordable for women to access birth control by a 61-52 vote. Bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook said the plan puts the state in line with the Affordable Care Act.

Category: In The News

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