Legislative Task Force on Heroin Hears Ideas

May 1, 2014

Legislative Task Force on Heroin Hears Ideas to Combat Deadly Drug

About 40 residents turned out for the last scheduled public hearing of the Legislature’s Young Adults Heroin Use Task Force at the O’Fallon Township High School Auditorium Monday evening and while the list of speakers brought diverse points of view from law enforcement, the courts, counseling and former users, the recommendations they offered in testimony were similar, according to State Sen. Kyle McCarter.

“The witnesses brought to us in detail the harsh reality of the heroin abuse problem, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the Metro East area alone over the past several years, its negative impact on public safety and public health in our communities, the need to increase public awareness of its devastating effects, a plea for substance abuse prevention education and addiction recovery that can help save lives and the kinds of programs, policies and approaches that are working in other communities and other states,” said McCarter (R-Lebanon).

Sen. McCarter said the series of statewide public hearings has convinced him that real action on the problem, from multiple angles, must happen sooner rather than later. “As long as we delay in acting, young people will die,” said McCarter. “To some, I guess that’s okay if it’s a statistic that doesn’t involve your family but when it involves your family it becomes an urgent issue.”

The panel and the public heard a number of facts and figures on drug overdoses and deaths but also heard other information that makes up the modern day heroin horror story including, how heroin makes its way into the Metro East and Illinois from Mexico and South America; how heroin is replacing meth as an illicit drug of choice in downstate Illinois because its readily available and cheap; the increase in its purity and consequently its danger level from about three percent during heroin’s 1970’s heyday to now 40 percent to as high as 90 percent; and how prescription pain medications such as Oxycontin or Oxycodone, which can be highly addictive and have similar affects or so-called highs if abused, can be gateway drugs to heroin.

Testimony also included calls to reverse the budget cuts of recent years in state funding for mental health and drug addiction counseling and recovery, the necessity of law enforcement and addiction counseling to work together with better case management and communication and the need for a realistic and practical education curriculum that can touch lives not only at the high school level but students in middle schools, where in some cases children as young as 12 are using heroin and other drugs. Also discussed during the hearing were the new medications being made available that can curb a heroin user’s cravings for the drug, helping the person stay heroin-free and allowing for a higher level success in addiction recovery programs.

“It’s going to take families working together; communities working together and law enforcement working together to make a difference,” said McCarter.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Sen. McCarter said finding the right place to begin the recovery for a loved one can be a difficult search as his family’s own experience with his daughter Amber proved to be seven years ago. Amber died while going through the application process to get into Mercy Ministries, a program that has great success in treating those with addictions. There are new drugs available today that allow those who are addicted to become stable and think clearly so that they can get into a program that is good for them. The Senator said he has a list of treatment facilities that he wishes to share with anyone who would like a copy. You can email Sen. McCarter at senatormccarter@gmail.com or call his District office at 618-283-3000 to obtain the list.