JOLIET – U.S. Congressman Bill Foster, D-Naperville, is stepping up the fight against the deadly opioid epidemic sweeping Illinois and the rest of the nation.
Foster is the key sponsor to House Resolution 4982 – a bill requiring the Government Accountability Office to submit a report outlining opioid abuse treatment availability and capacity needs in the U.S.
Foster this week said he and other members of Congress are “staying on high alert” to ensure funding is allocated to fight the growing epidemic.
“We need to make sure that we don’t just go and say how much we care about the epidemic and then don’t allocate the resources needed,” Foster said.
Foster’s legislation requires the GAO to analyze capacity for varied treatment levels and the use of medically assisted treatment and nonpharmacological therapies. The study also will look at treatment availability by geographic region, and within specific demographics, including pregnant women and adolescents.
The bill also asks that the GAO outline federal, state and local barriers to real-time reporting of information on drug overdoses and ways to overcome those barriers.
With fewer state dollars allocated to treatment centers, Illinois has some of the worst treatment availability in the nation. That’s worsened by the Illinois budget impasse, Foster said.
“In Illinois, there’s been huge amounts of stress. Treatment centers have had to cut back on services because of the Illinois budget situation,” Foster said. “Stepping Stones in Joliet … Gateway and Lutheran Social Services. And this is all because of the financial stress in Illinois.”
The Will County Coroner’s Office has tallied 25 opioid-related deaths so far this year. Last month, Coroner Pat O’Neil reported the county was on pace to reach the 80s or 90s by year’s end – far outpacing the county’s 2012 and 2015 record of 53 deaths.
HR 4982 is part of a larger package aimed at combating the epidemic.
The Senate passed its own bill package earlier this year. The two bill versions must be reconciled by a Congress conference committee before final passage.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, also voted in support of the bill.
HR 4982 sets up grant programs, requires the Veterans Affairs office to update its therapy clinical guidelines, assesses Good Samaritan laws, establishes a task force to address prescription pain medication use, allows nurse practitioners to administer medication-assisted treatment, and reauthorizes treatment grants for programs targeting pregnant and postpartum women facing addiction, according to Lipinski’s office.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, was appointed last week to represent the House and serve on the bipartisan conference committee charged with negotiating the final legislation package, according to a Kinzinger news release.