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As overdose deaths mount, Illinois gets additional money to fight opioid epidemic


The Illinois Department of Human Services plans to use a $15 million federal grant to fund a number of programs aimed at fighting the state’s opioid epidemic.

Department officials said the money will be used to expand the use of medication-assisted treatment for addicts, more recovery homes and treatment at local jails and hospitals, among other programs.

Some of the money also will be used to improve the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, which is used to help prevent misuse of prescription opioids. Other funding will go to help make sure naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose, is available where needed.

“We’re excited to grow our programs that have shown success throughout the state,” Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Director Dani Kirby said in a news release. “The influx of federal dollars has not only helped us to expand access to medication assisted treatment programs, but also to pilot new programs to find out which ones are bringing the most successful prevention, treatment and recovery efforts to Illinois residents.”

Medication-assisted treatment involves giving addicts long-acting medications to ease withdrawal and psychological cravings. Some of the FDA-approved medications include other opiates, such as methadone and buprenorphine. Others block the effects of opioids, essentially preventing users from getting high.

Most Illinois residents live in a county where there’s at least one form of medication-assisted treatment. But 45 Illinois counties have no medication-assisted treatment providers, according to a March report from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Since September 2016, Illinois has received more than $82 million in federal funding for opioid programs. Illinois could get another $29 million in 2020.

“With the additional funding, we’ll continue to work to ensure that all communities throughout the state have access to treatment for opioid use disorder,” IDHS Secretary Designate Grace Hou said in a news release.

In 2017, there were 2,202 opioid overdose deaths in Illinois, a substantial increase over 1,203 such deaths reported in 2014.

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