Over the past two decades, the United States has experienced the most widespread substance abuse in its history. Since 1990, drug overdose deaths in the country have more than tripled, and drug overdoses have overtaken car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the country.
Each state has felt the effects of the opioid crisis, and Illinois appears to be in particularly bad shape, due to the state’s insolvency. If Illinois cannot pay its debts, create new public health initiatives due to a lack of funding, or even pay the state’s pensioners and lottery winners, where can state lawmakers find the funds needed to combat the drug crisis in the state?
Illinois Facing Bankruptcy
The state of Illinois has been operating without an approved, balanced budget for almost two years. Conflict between the governor and the Democrat-controlled state legislature has led to disagreements over budgeting. The state owes billions to state vendors, and pensioners worry for the security of their pensions.
Unions demanding higher wages and higher taxes for public spending have also created issues for Illinois, and there is still no clear end in sight. At this point, it doesn’t seem to be a question of if Illinois will go bankrupt, but when.
One of the adverse results of this insolvency is that many public programs will face funding cuts. If health and human services suffer in this manner, Illinois may not have the funds to deal with one of the most pressing problems in the state: the opioid crisis.
Other states have been able to allocate additional funds and boost the efficacy of existing addiction treatment programs since they have the financial flexibility to do so, but it doesn’t appear that this option exists for Illinois.
Illinois’ Struggles with the Opioid Crisis
Heroin-related overdose deaths in Illinois jumped 22 percent between 2013 and 2014, and the issue has only worsened since. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority recently surveyed sheriffs and police chiefs, and more than half of the respondents reported that heroin is the largest drug threat facing Illinois.
Last year, 2016, Illinois saw a 48 percent increase in heroin distribution, 59 percent increase in heroin-related transportation, and the reported demand for heroin in Illinois skyrocketed by 83 percent.
The Problem Is Getting Worse, Not Better
As more patients grow dependent on prescription opioid painkillers, their refills will inevitably run out and they will have to either enter substance abuse treatment or find another means of maintaining their habits.
Unfortunately, heroin is easily accessible in Illinois, so many people who begin with prescription opioids and become addicted turn to heroin as a cost-effective substitute. The Chicago area alone witnessed more than 1,000 deaths from heroin overdoses in 2016.
Despite a highly successful conviction rate in state drug courts and hundreds of drug dealers put behind bars, Illinois anti-drug advocates claim that these measures have had little effect on the availability of heroin in the area.
These same advocates have successfully pushed for greater accessibility to naloxone, the anti-overdose drug capable of saving the lives of individuals experiencing an opioid overdose. Unfortunately, comprehensive treatment programs in Illinois are difficult to find and stretched to capacity.
The Illinois Regions Hit Hardest by Heroin
Southern Illinois has felt the effects of the opioid crisis more acutely than the rest of the state. In 2016 alone, almost 1,200 people died of opioid overdoses across Illinois. From 2008 to 2016, the number of prescriptions in state for opioid painkillers increased about 18 percent, from 1.77 to 2.09 per patient.
Southern Illinois counties including Hardin, Pope, Gallatin, Johnson, Perry and White saw the prescription rate jump 30 percent, from 2.16 to 2.75 prescriptions per patient.
The Drug Pipeline
Another reason Illinois is suffering acutely from the opioid crisis is the availability of heroin in the area thanks to drug cartels. Cartel members move drugs from Mexico into the United States, and the Chicago metropolitan area is a major drug trafficking hub that helps cartels ferry their products across the country.
Illinois law enforcement recently seized more than 190 kilograms of heroin, disrupting a major drug pipeline running from Mexico to Chicago. An extensive operation lasting more than a year involved surveillance and raids on drug operations in the city, and the investigation resulted in 19 arrests.
Where Does Illinois Go from Here?
Illinois citizens have many questions concerning the widespread drug problem in the state. If the state defaults on its debts, how will the state help mitigate the ongoing substance abuse problem in Illinois? If the state has to cut funding to health and human services programs, what will this mean for the already overtaxed substance abuse treatment services in the state?
People struggling with addiction in Illinois may soon have to face the fact that the state simply does not have the resources to effectively handle the problem, and already-struggling relief programs are not going to be able to sustain their current efforts without government assistance.
It’s unknown whether Illinois will seek a federal bailout to pay its debts, but the governor of Illinois has already spoken against further burdening the taxpayers due to the fiscal irresponsibility of the state’s Democratic legislature. While these issues speak to the financial issues facing the state of Illinois, there is little focus on the opioid crisis from state lawmakers because there simply aren’t enough resources to dedicate to effectively handling the issue.
Seeking Treatment out of State
Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, Arizona accepts clients from all over the country, so anyone living in Illinois who is struggling with opioid addiction should consider that worthwhile treatment close to home may not be an option. Reflections caters primarily to young adults who are suffering from heroin or opioid addiction.
Illinois residents struggling with addiction and their families don’t need to feel hopeless due to the state’s fiscal insolvency. Reach out to the Reflections team for help before the problem turns fatal.