At Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator points to prescription narcotic drugs as a dangerous and growing source of opioid addiction, and shares treatment efforts in Dixon, Illinois as model for addressing the growing crisis

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Attacking America’s Epidemic of Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) shared his experiences meeting with local advocates, law enforcement officials, health professionals, and people affected by heroin and opioid addiction throughout Illinois.

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He told his colleagues, “I’ve done roundtables around Illinois. There’s no town too small, no suburb too wealthy not to have heroin overdose deaths in the state of Illinois."

Durbin highlighted the efforts of local leaders in Dixon, Illinois to combat the heroin epidemic. In November, Durbin met with Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss and Lee County Sheriff John Simonton to learn more about the Safe Passage Initiative that encourages addicts to seek out treatment for addiction.

“Twenty-five young people came forward. You know what happened? They went into treatment. And you know what happened to the jail? It was empty. But there’s a key element here: how did they get into treatment? If they’re lucky enough to have health insurance, they have access to treatment. If they’re lucky enough, through the Affordable Care Act, to have access to Medicaid, then they get into treatment. We all know that we don’t have enough resources to treat these people, but we absolutely, positively have to do it.”

Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has more than doubled, and in most states the number now exceeds the number of traffic-related deaths. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of preventable injury death, resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths each year, with most involving either prescription opioids or heroin. In Illinois, there were 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – an increase of nearly 29 percent since 2010.

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Prescription narcotic drugs are the number one cause of overdoses in the United States. At today’s hearing, Durbin commented on the rise in opioid prescriptions, and called on Congress to take concrete steps to address the problem: “We don’t have to go to the border to see the source of opioids. You go to the pain clinic in the mall. You go to the doctor just around the corner. You go to the pharmacist who looks the other way. And clearly, I think we have a responsibility here.”

Earlier today, Durbin joined five Senate colleagues in urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release delayed opioid prescribing guidelines. Over-prescription of opioid painkillers puts patients at risk of abuse, misuse and addiction, and is closely linked to an escalating heroin crisis.

The Senators wrote: “The United States is in the midst of the worst prescription opioid and heroin epidemics in our history, which has claimed the lives of nearly 29,000 in 2014 alone. One critical step we must take to address these national, co-occurring public health crises is to ensure the responsible prescribing of opioids.”

Last year, Durbin introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) program, which provides grants to states to maintain, improve, and expand their prescription drug monitoring programs. The program was originally signed into law in 2005.

Under a new White House initiative announced in October, state, local, and private sector partners have committed to double the number of health care providers registered with their State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in the next two years.

More information about Durbin’s support for targeted strategies to address opioid abuse – including greater access to naloxone, drug overdose prevention programs, and medication-assisted therapies – is available here.

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