News Local/State

Illinois’ Senior Senator Says State Is Falling Short In Combating The Opioid Epidemic

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) at a roundtable discussion in Rockford on opioids.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) at a roundtable discussion in Rockford on opioids. Jessie Schlacks/WNIJ

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he’s not seeing enough statewide progress in addressing the opioid addiction crisis. 

The Democratic senator visited Mercyhealth in Rockford Wednesday for a roundtable conversation with doctors, first responders, treatment specialists and Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. 

Participants echoed a similar theme: they're strapped when it comes to finances to provide adequate services. 

Congress recently passed a spending bill allocating more than double the money spent in fiscal 2017 for the opioid battle. Durbin says he wants to put more money toward front end efforts.

“Because if this works to do something positive – to stop this epidemic, it’s money well spent," he said. "Not only are lives lost, but terrific expenses are incurred.”

Durbin says it's a multi-layered issue that begins with pharmaceutical companies. He says they manufacture more than 14 billion opiates a year. Durbin says he recently introduced legislation to boost the DEA's authority to restrict how many pills are produced in the U.S. 

But he says prescribers should be extra vigilant to not give out too many painkillers.

“They don’t reach the users – consumers – unless someone writes the prescription," he said. "So the obvious question is, ‘Are doctors, dentists, and nurse practitioners paying close attention here? Do they understand their role in this?’”

Durbin says he plans to visit other locations across the state for similar discussions.