The opioid epidemic has had an incomprehensible effect on families across the country. In big cities and small towns, blue states and red ones, rich households and poor, too many lives have been lost to a scourge that was created in large part by the abuses of pharmaceutical companies and lack of access to mental health services. In 2018 alone, more than 2,000 Illinoisans died of opioid overdoses. And these numbers still don’t account for the countless lives, families, and careers that have been harmed in ways both big and small from the toll of opioid addiction, even when it doesn’t result in death. It has to stop.
The opioid crisis was declared a nationwide public health emergency in 2017, but the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the problem worse, while also drawing attention away from urgent solutions that are needed. Nearly every state in the union saw a spike in overdose deaths in the first eight months of 2020 compared to a year earlier, with Illinois near the top of the list—deaths increased by 41.5%.
Combatting the Opioid Epidemic
- Increase funding for grants to state and local programs that provide addiction treatment and services statewide
- Expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and mental health care
- Invest in broadband statewide in order to expand telehealth options, allowing those in rural areas to more easily access drug treatment, mental health, and addiction specialists
- Extend and expand flexibility regarding telehealth services at rural clinics and elsewhere, which were authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Crackdown on Big Pharma and continue to hold drug companies accountable for their role in creating the epidemic
In Congress, I will treat the opioid epidemic just as seriously as the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which have taken the lives of far too many Central and Southern Illinoisans.