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Letter: Heroin is region’s silent killer

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 11:55 p.m. CST

To the Editor:

Last year, there were 46 deaths from heroin overdose in DuPage County alone. Ranging in age from 15 to 64, these victims are much more than faceless statistics. They are sons and daughters; brothers and sisters; cousins, neighbors and friends. The problem is not isolated to DuPage County, they just happen to track the number of deaths. Families throughout Illinois have been devastated by the growing heroin epidemic. There are meaningful steps we can take to save lives. Recently, we took the first of many.

Members of the House Republican caucus worked with DuPage County officials to develop a comprehensive legislative package aimed at every aspect of Illinois’ heroin crisis: treatment, law enforcement and education.

Our approach would create a pilot program in DuPage County to establish a secure substance-abuse treatment facility as a joint partnership between the state and county, a “last chance” option for those convicted of drug crimes. If results are positive, this program could serve as a statewide model.

Our plan cracks down on drug traffickers by extending Illinois’ RICO statute’s sunset date to 2022. We would strengthen asset forfeiture provisions and allow prosecutors to use a portion of the proceeds from seized assets to fund substance-abuse treatment.

Because prescription opiate abuse is often the gateway to heroin addiction, we would enhance penalties for “doctor shopping” by prohibiting patients from withholding the fact that they have received the same or a similar controlled substance from health care practitioners within a specified time frame.

Our plan also calls for two statewide heroin education initiatives. We would promote awareness of a “Good Samaritan” law that protects people from prosecution for reporting an overdose. In addition, we would have the Department of Human Services distribute pamphlets to educate holders of opiate prescriptions about the dangers of children gaining access to medications.

Finally, in an attempt to crack down on “krokodil,” an often cheaper but equally deadly heroin alternative, we would enhance penalties for the drug to be on par with those for heroin.

With the commitment of local officials, educators and public health advocates, we will meet the challenge of the heroin epidemic head-on.

Stay informed and learn how you can make a difference. Visit our website at www.ilhousegop.org and follow the Illinois House Republicans on Facebook and Twitter. We welcome your feedback as we work to empower local families and law enforcement to prevent future tragedies.

Jim Durkin

Illinois House Republican Leader

Westchester

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