PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – In 2020, Illinois reported nearly 3,000 opioid overdose deaths, many attributed to fentanyl. In response to the crisis, Illinois Senate Democrats have introduced two new bills.
Since 2013, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, have increased by 2,736%.
“In spite of all the conversations we’ve been having about it, it is still a growing crisis,” said State Senator Laura Ellman, (D-Naperville).
Chris Schaffner, program director at JOLT Harm Reduction in Peoria, said it’s also a problem seen locally.
“Through our testing practices we continue to see fentanyl in non-opioid based drugs, like cocaine, methamphetamine, or even pressed into some pills that were sold as Xanax,” Schaffner said.
A group of Illinois lawmakers recently introduced a series of bills to help combat the fentanyl overdose crisis.
House Bill 17 would increase sentencing by three years for individuals who manufacture and deliver fentanyl-laced products. It would also allow a person to seek medical treatment for an overdose, without being prosecuted for small amounts of the drug.
“We already have some of the tools that we need in order to save lives, this is an update to those tools,” Ellman said.
House Bill 4556 would make fentanyl testing strips more accessible, without persecution for possessing drug testing supplies.
“Particularly from health care professionals like pharmacists, that they’re able to use and be able to give out to customers so we don’t have any unnecessary fentanyl overdoses,” said State Senator Robert Peters, (D-Chicago).
Schaffner said while laws already exist in Illinois which provide protections and promote safety, new legislation only helps. He said overdose deaths hurt entire communities.
“What we’re talking about are lost children, lost and loved spouses,” Schaffner said. “People who have friends and neighbors, people who serve and work to make the community’s better, and that’s a huge loss,” he said.
The two bills are expected to be heard by state lawmakers over the coming weeks.
Schaffner said JOLT Harm Reduction can provide resources such as Narcan and Fentanyl testing strips.