Illinois lawmakers hope several bills can address overdose crisis

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Opioids have been involved in over 70% of fatal drug overdoses in Illinois. State lawmakers hope to pass a package of bills to address the opioid crisis before session ends.

Sen. Paul Faraci (D-Champaign) told reporters Thursday that pharmacists, nurses, and physician assistants are the only people currently authorized to use overdose prevention equipment. Faraci said his plan could allow trained overdose responders to use fentanyl testing strips to help people in need.

“Champaign Urbana Health District is one of these organizations,” Faraci said. “These testing strips are a crucial tool for detecting fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is often mixed into other drugs without users’ knowledge.”

House Bill 1121 passed unanimously out of the House in March. The plan also received unanimous support from the Senate Public Health Committee on April 19. 

A separate plan could require all high school students to learn about the dangers of fentanyl during their health courses. The instruction would include information about the differences between synthetic and non-synthetic opioids and illicit drugs, the variations of fentanyl, and the differences between legal and illegal use of the drug.

Students could also learn how to detect fentanyl in drugs and ways to save someone from a fentanyl overdose. Health teachers would be required to explain how drugs can be laced with fentanyl and the side effects of using it.

“This bill just instructs school districts to talk about the risks and dangers of fentanyl, how to recognize the symptoms of an overdose, and also about how to administer Naloxone,” said Sen. Laura Ellman (D-Naperville). “This goes hand in hand with trying to educate people about the dangers of overdose.”

Ellman’s plan passed unanimously out of the House in March and received unanimous support from the Senate Education Committee last month.

Meanwhile, House Bill 1557 could require most music venues to have Naloxone and other opioid-overdose antidotes on hand. The legislation applies to for-profit venues with an occupancy of 1,000 or more people. Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago) said the proposal also requires venue staff to be trained on how to properly use antidotes to safely prevent an overdose.

“This initiative will help prevent overdoses at concerts and music festivals,” Villa said. “When people go to these festivals and concerts, sometimes they make bad choices and bad decisions. But that shouldn’t cost them their lives.”

House Bill 1557 passed out of the House on a 105-2 vote on March 23. The Senate Public Health Committee unanimously approved the plan on April 19.

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May 4, 2023 at 05:49PM

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