A group of House Republican Lawmakers are taking action to fight Illinois’ growing heroin epidemic. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), State Representatives Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale), John Cabello (R-Machesney Park), and Sandy Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) were joined by DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and DuPage County Judicial and Public Safety Committee Chairman Grant Eckhoff on Thursday to announce a comprehensive package of legislation designed to address heroin abuse and related crimes.
“Heroin has claimed too many lives – leaving behind families devastated by their loss. It’s our hope that the package of bills introduced here today will prevent the loss of life and protect other families from having to experience such pain in the future. I would like to applaud the efforts of State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin, the DuPage Heroin Coalition; DuPage County Judical and Public Safety Chairman Grant Eckhoff ; Reps. Sandy Pihos, Patti Bellock and John Cabello for their work in developing and supporting these bills,” said Durkin (R-Western Springs).
“After seeing firsthand the toll heroin addiction takes on individuals and their families, it’s evident we need to take collaborative actions to stem the tide,” said Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a former narcotics prosecutor. “This year in Springfield, we are introducing a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at addressing the full range and scope of the heroin epidemic.”
“The rapid increase in heroin use and addiction poses a particularly deadly threat not only to DuPage County, but to citizens across Illinois and throughout the nation,” said Grant Eckhoff, DuPage County Judicial and Public Safety Committee chairman. “Last year, DuPage County suffered a record number of fatal heroin overdoses – 46. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 64. These victims are not just statistics. Instead they are our neighbors and often our family members. I commend the legislators for providing law enforcement and the court system with more tools to serve and protect our community.”
The House Republicans’ plan would create a pilot program in DuPage County to establish a secure substance abuse treatment facility that will be a joint partnership between the state and county to serve as a “last chance” option for those convicted of drug crimes.
This package also includes legislation to extend Illinois’ RICO statutes sunset date to 2022, which is currently scheduled to expire in 2017. It would also allow prosecutors to use a portion of the proceeds from seized assets accumulated by gangs to fund substance abuse treatment programs.
The plan also includes House Bill 5528 which would generate drug overdose data by requiring each county’s Department of Public Health to track and periodically report the number of drug overdose deaths to the State.
This package also includes legislation to enhance penalties for ‘Doctor Shopping’. House Bill 5527 would strengthen current law to prohibit patients from withholding the fact that they have received the same or similar controlled substance from health care practitioners within a specified time frame.
The package also calls for two state-wide heroin education initiatives. To help raise awareness on a law which protects people from prosecution for reporting an overdose, House Bill 5530 creates an educational initiative to promote the “Good Samaritan” law. House Bill 5529 calls on the Department of Human Services to create and distribute pamphlets to educate holders of opiate prescriptions about the dangers of children and teens gaining access to medications.
In an attempt to crack down on ‘krokodil,’ an often cheaper heroin alternative, House Bill 5531would enhance penalties for the drug to be on par with those for heroin.
“Heroin use in DuPage County and across the state has hit epidemic proportions resulting in nearly one death per week last year,” said Robert Berlin, DuPage County State’s Attorney. “It is a relentless killer that with each use reduces a user’s chance of survival. I applaud House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Representatives Dennis Reboletti, Patti Bellock, John Cabello, Sandy Pihos and all those who have dedicated a considerable amount of their time and effort in ridding our communities of this very dangerous drug.”
“Addiction is a problem which knows no geographic or socio-economic boundaries,” said Rep. Sandy Pihos. “Prevention through education and awareness is critical to saving lives. I look forward to advancing our heroin legislative package in Springfield this year in partnership with colleagues on both sides of the aisle who recognize the threat heroin poses to suburban families.”
Pihos commended DuPage County for allocating $100,000 for heroin prevention education and awareness efforts that she believes could be emulated by the state. The “Be a Hero-In DuPage” campaign includes a website, www.heroindupage.org, and social media resources that provide heroin facts and warning signs, in addition to information about local treatment providers and support for the addict and their family. The County has also hosted informational forums for students, educators and the community.
"Meeting the threat posed by the growing suburban heroin epidemic requires the best efforts of parents, educators, law enforcement, public health officials and state policymakers," said Rep. Patti Bellock. "This is a challenge we are going to meet together. The comprehensive package of bills we're introducing today will bring this issue to the forefront in Springfield while strengthening our efforts to educate and empower families and local law enforcement to combat the risk of heroin use among teens and young adults."