1-833-2FINDHELP is the state's helpline number opioid-addicted residents can call for immediate help.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti held an impromptu press conference Tuesday announcing the 24-hour hotline created to address what the governor calls a scourge sweeping across the state.
“Opioid abuse and addiction is a tragedy and it is taking lives and destroying families,” Rauner said. “We have to do everything we can to end this scourge and keep the people of Illinois safe.”
The governor detailed how officials with the Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force traveled across Illinois in the last year talking with community and health leaders as well as law enforcement officers on how to implement an “excellent and thoughtful” plan in order to coordinate feedback to fight the plague that is taking thousands of lives annually.
“We had almost 2,000 Illinois residents die of opioid overdoses last year,” Rauner said. “This is terrible and unacceptable, and we have got to end it. Our goal is to reduce that number by a third in the next couple of years and my personal goal is to end it completely.”
The governor said the there will always be assistance on the other end of the opioid helpline.
“Anyone can call in for advice, referrals, access or treatment so they have one place to call to quickly get the advice they need to deal with this horrible challenge,” Rauner said.
As the task force's co-chair, Sanguinetti has traveled across the state to cities including Chicago, Champaign, Mount Vernon, Decatur, Dixon, Woodstock, Waukegan, Addison, Crystal Lake, Rockford, Rock lsland and Peoria for standing-room-only field meetings.
“We can all agree not all 102 counites here in Illinois were created equal and we need to see how they are dealing with this epidemic.” Sanguinetti said. “This epidemic knows no neighborhood, no color, no class, my friends this is an equal opportunity aggressor.”
She discussed the standing order to make naloxone, a drug (sold under the brand name Narcan) to resuscitate victims of opioid overdose, available.
“I got Narcan trained right away,” Sanguinetti said “We are now becoming the first responders in our communities.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shaw said he has been addressing the epidemic for the last three years and detailed the detrimental rising deaths due to the opioid crisis.
“Since 2013, the number of heroin overdoses has more than doubled and general opioid overdoses has more than quadrupled,” Shaw said, adding that the 2,000 overdoses in 2016 is staggering.
“That is more than one and half times than all homicides that occurred across the state and almost twice the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents that occurred across the state,” Shaw said. “Those numbers belie the true impact of the opioid crisis on families and communities.
“A survey shows that one in three people across the state are effected by the opioid crisis,” Shaw said. “Take a look to your left, take a look to your right, one of the three of you in some way, either directly or indirectly through a family member or a friend, is thought to be impacted by the opioid crisis in some way.”