Chicago's heroin problem is increasing at a time when Illinois has cut funding for drug treatment, according to a new report.
A review of treatment capacity found Illinois, in just five years, fell from 28th in the nation to third worst in the nation, ahead of only Texas and Tennessee, in terms of providing publicly funded treatment for addiction.
Illinois has cut treatment spending by almost 30 percent since 2007, researchers from Roosevelt University found.
They said Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed further cuts in treatment, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Decreased funding for treatment is directly related to the increase in heroin-related emergency room visits, said lead researcher Kathie Kane-Willis. "It's making the situation worse, I think, because if people can't get into treatment, they continue to use," she said.
A measure designed to combat the problem, called the Heroin Crisis Act, was approved by both chambers of the Illinois legislature, but has not been signed into law by the governor, the article notes. The bill would allow the state's Medicaid program to pay for methadone to treat heroin addiction. The cost of the bill would be $15 million, which the Illinois Department of Human Services says is too high.
"In budget crisis times, the funding that's most at risk is the funding that's not mandated," said Eric Foster, of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, a trade group for treatment providers. "There are a lot of things the state is obligated to pay for; addiction treatment is at most risk because there's not that mandate."
"Illinois needs to provide more – not less- treatment, especially medication assisted treatment," Kane-Willis said in a news release. We also need to scale up naloxone access so that fewer people die, and expand syringe programs to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C."