Guest columnist state Sen. Laura Ellman: Law will help reduce opioid overdose deaths

In 2018 at the young age of 25, Alex Green, a Naperville community member, lost his life from an overdose due to fentanyl. He was with others at the time of his overdose, but no one called 911 because they were scared of legal repercussions. His friend dropped him off at a gas station and fled, not informing the attendant that his friend was experiencing an overdose.

Alex’s death could have been prevented had his friends sought medical assistance sooner. Since then, Alex’s father has worked tirelessly to ensure his son’s death was not in vain by helping us pass legislation that will save lives.

The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act guarantees that a person experiencing an overdose and seeking emergency medical care won’t be charged or prosecuted if they have possession of synthetic opioids. The same goes for a friend or family member who seeks medical assistance on behalf of someone experiencing an overdose.

It reinforces into law the approach I’ve heard from police chiefs that law enforcement officers already practice when they respond to overdose calls: The first order of businesses is to save lives. Everything else is secondary.

Opioid addiction doesn’t just affect an individual. It affects entire families and communities. That is why we can’t sit back and watch as this illness and its devastating impact worsens. The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act is one step towards helping our community members and their families cope with the realities of opioid addiction and get medical assistance when they need it most, especially at a time when we’re seeing a shocking increase in overdoses and deaths, in large part because of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic and potent substance that is being added to heroin and other substances. In many cases, people don’t know the drugs they are taking are laced with fentanyl, let alone the amount of fentanyl that is cut into their heroin. This substance is 50 times more powerful than heroin and just a touch of it hidden in another substance can be lethal. In fact, since 2013, synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased by 2,736% in Illinois.

Possession or intent to sell fentanyl is classified as a Class X felony in Illinois, which can discourage a person from seeking help if they are overdosing. When someone is on the verge of death, they shouldn’t have to fear getting medical help. The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act ensures that if a person is experiencing an overdose or bringing a friend for medical attention, they won’t be penalized for possession of fentanyl.

This, in conjunction with other recent legislation, will make it easier to access help and won’t penalize people who seek help for themselves or their friends. By taking care of those experiencing addiction and encouraging treatment, we’re taking care of families, neighbors and our entire community.

• State Sen. Laura Ellman is a Democrat from Naperville.

via > Top News

June 3, 2022 at 07:12AM

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