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Illinois opioid task force embarks upon a “listening tour” to combat opioid crisis

The Illinois opioid task force, formed in September 2017 to combat the opioid epidemic in the state, has embarked upon a “listening tour.” To understand how the opioid epidemic is affecting people, the team, comprising health experts and political leaders, are in the process of hearing the pain and struggle of people recovering from addiction, the medical professionals and the first responders to collate real information. The tales coming out, as a result, are troubling.

The state has devised a decisive plan to take on the opioid crisis that is threatening to cripple it. A large number of people are dependent on opioids, and as the tour progressed, the officials got to hear dreadful accounts.

One awful account came from a nurse, mother of a person in recovery. Right from arrests, police wellness checks, fistfights, rubbing drug dealers the wrong way to fights with family and constantly worrying about hunger, the mother said they saw it all because of her son’s addiction. Her son lived on the streets and even had seizures. Unable to help in any other way, she started teaching her children how to use Narcan at home.

The opioid crisis is the worst in the history of America, said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director, Illinois Department of Public Health. It is all the more true for Illinois, as close to 2,000 people died in the state in 2016 due to opioid overdose. The numbers are staggering, he said, pointing to the fact that the numbers were double the fatal car crashes in Illinois and more than “a half times the number of people who died of a homicide.”

Addiction treatment needs customization

As the tour advanced, there were also positive stories of recovery where people had shunned opioids and embraced a life of sobriety. Recovering patients spoke highly of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), holistic approaches, and abstinence-based programs. They maintained that different people require different strategies to overcome addiction. Therefore, addiction treatment cannot follow a one-size-fits-all kind of an approach.

“We want to learn what resources are available in different communities across the state and how we can work together to fight the opioid epidemic,” a state news release quoted Dr. Shah. “It will take all of us, in all capacities, to end the crisis,” he said.

Thereon, the task force will head to Champaign and Mount Vernon to meet healthcare providers, community organizations and people directly impacted by the opioid epidemic.

State intervention needed

Reaching out to people and expanding treatment avenues hold the key to a better handling of the opioid crisis. Experts like Dr. Thomas Huggett, addiction physician at Lawndale Christian Health Center, said that expanded medication, assisted treatment, social support and behavioral health counseling were crucial in this fight against opioids. “There are already many success stories of people who underwent MAT. Most of them are now relieved, feeling better and not using drugs,” said Huggett.

However, there is still a lot that Illinois needs, as more than 240,000 people are using opioids and require help. Although the rising numbers are horrifying, there is still hope with increased intervention programs from state government and those directly involved.

Dealing with addiction

Addiction is a scourge, whether it is to an opioid, alcohol, marijuana, street drug or any other substance. One can only expect relief from a dedicated treatment program. If you have a loved one struggling with an addiction, seek help from our 24/7 Recovery Helpline members by calling at 855-441-4405. Our dedicated 24-hour drug helpline representatives will assist you with all the information you may require. You can even chat online with our trained staff for assistance on drug rehab help.

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