Illinois’ Response to the Rising Problem of Opioid Overdoses
Controlled substances remain in great demand in Illinois. Of the roughly 81,000 drug-crime arrests made in Illinois in 2016 (the latest year for which data is available), 28% were for controlled substances. Controlled substances include prescription opiates like fentanyl and oxycodone as well as illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin (excluding cannabis, which represented 43% of arrests).
High demand for prescription opiates means that medical professionals willing to prescribe or provide them are also in high demand. So much so that the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation takes action against at least a half-dozen medical professionals per month, on average.
Tough federal and state statutes, coupled with strong law enforcement, have helped to reduce controlled substances arrests both in Illinois and nationwide from 2015 to 2016. But that does not mean the war on drugs is over.
Opioid Overdoses Still Climbing
Opioid overdoses remain one of the top concerns for drug enforcement agents. Over 63,600 deaths nationwide and over 2,000 deaths in Illinois were attributed to opioid overdoses in 2016.
The problem is so big that the Illinois Department of Public Health now maintains an Opioid Data Dashboard. For 2017, the dashboard shows 2,054 fatal overdoses and 13,395 non-fatal overdoses in Illinois.
Illinois’s Response to Reduce Opioid Overdose Deaths
In 2015, Illinois passed a statute called the Drug Overdose Prevention Program (20 ILCS 301/5-23), which requires all ambulances, law enforcement officers, and firemen who respond to emergency medical calls to carry naloxone and be trained in its use. This program was implemented over the course of 2016 and into 2017. Naloxone (brand name Narcan) currently costs first responder groups about $40 per dose.
To make it even easier to get naloxone to those who need it, the Illinois Department of Public Health published a standing order in October 2017 that allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone to individuals without a doctor’s prescription. This order also enables hospitals, urgent care centers, and law enforcement agencies to obtain and administer naloxone without a specific prescription.
In both 2017 and 2018, the state of Illinois was granted $16 million in federal funding earmarked for opioid overdose prevention. Some of the money goes toward training first responders on how to treat opioid overdoses with naloxone. From July 2017 to May 2018, 17,675 people were trained and 900 lives saved.
Illinois officials have acted swiftly and responsibly to reduce opioid overdose deaths. However, the fact that citizens are getting access, largely illegally, to such controlled substances remains a big problem.
Speak to an Experienced Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged with a violation of federal or state laws governing controlled substances such as opioids, you are at risk for serious fines and jail time. To ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process, talk to an experienced Will County Criminal Defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation.