SPRINGFIELD – Following a record number of heroin-related deaths in one suburban Chicago county last year, state lawmakers are set to introduce a package of bills next month they hope will prevent substance abuse across Illinois.
Several Republican lawmakers and DuPage County officials on Thursday introduced a plan they hope will crack down on heroin use and prevent deaths, local media reported.
The legislation would seek to address a broad range of drug-related issues, including the abuse of doctor prescriptions and coroner or medical examiner death reports. It also would extend statutes that allow prosecutors to go after gang leaders and use the money from these cases to fund substance-abuse treatment centers.
The proposal comes after DuPage County reported a record 46 heroin-related deaths in 2013.
“Right now we are in ground zero of heroin abuse. This is DuPage County, Illinois,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. “We’re going to do everything we can possibly do to stop this epidemic, educate families and save lives.”
State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a Republican from Elmhurst, said one bill would require coroners to track and report the number of drug deaths to the state. He said he thinks the state underreports the number of drug-related deaths, adding that deaths related to overdosing surpass deaths caused by vehicles.
Another bill would seek to prevent “doctor shopping” by requiring patients to tell health care providers what pain killers they have taken within a certain period of time.
“Heroin use in DuPage County and across the state has hit epidemic proportions resulting in nearly one death per week last year,” said DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin. “It is a relentless killer that, with each use, reduces a user’s chance of survival.”