Hultgren Convenes Community Leaders to Update District-Wide Goals during Nation’s Opioid Crisis
Campton Hills, IL — As the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to affect northern Illinois and the nation, U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) brought together local emergency first responders, health care leaders and providers, and state and local government officials last week at the Campton Township Community Center. The two meetings tackled the state of the opioid epidemic in Illinois, successful prevention and treatment programs and federal policy recommendations.
(Rep. Hultgren meets with health care providers)
“Above all, our goal is still saving lives, and our community leaders are on the front lines every day in this fight,“ said Rep. Hultgren. “From educating the public on the opioid epidemic, to stemming the inflow of heroin and abused opioids into our communities, the tasks before all of us are difficult. But working together and coordinating our efforts is the lynchpin to ensuring we are having real success against this plague.”
The meetings are part of Rep. Hultgren’s continued fight against heroin and opioid in northern Illinois begun in March 2014, which has included a Community Leadership Forum on Heroin Prevention; a Community Action Plan to Combat Heroin and Opioid Abuse and its supplemental report, Persisting in the Fight, based on subsequent community meeting; and his support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016. Learn more here: https://hultgren.house.gov/heroin.
He opened the discussion with a personal story about growing up in a funeral home in Wheaton where on one occasion a close family friend lost his son to a heroin overdose. “His father told us he wished his son could have stayed in prison longer. ’Maybe then this wouldn’t have happened,’” recollected Rep. Hultgren. “To me, it just felt so sad that the best hope was to be in prison. I know it isn’t, and we have to do something.”
(Rep. Hultgren meets with law enforcement, first responders and ER physicians)
Rep. Hultgren first met with 50 law enforcement officials, first responders and emergency room physicians to discuss what could be improved in the community and what has improved since the heroin prevention meetings last summer. Communities are continuing to prioritize education and prevention, while also working hard to find affordable treatment options and long-term recovery housing for those suffering from drug addiction. One of the area’s greatest success stories is the life-saving decision to arm first responders with naloxone, an overdose antidote. First responders in counties throughout the 14th District are trained and equipped with Narcan to reverse and track overdoses and emergency visits.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans who use heroin—including those in treatment—report using prescription opioids first. In the second meeting, healthcare experts including emergency room workers, pharmaceutical industry representatives and pharmacists discussed safe opioid prescribing, cultural trends among patients and prescribers, new community-wide education programs and prescription monitoring programs.
Each professional shared insight on ways physicians and pharmacists can work together to prevent individuals from receiving multiple prescriptions for painkillers. Jennifer Benson, public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Sherman Hospital, analogized this kind of cross-pharmacy prescription monitoring to a credit card being denied at multiple stores. Information-sharing in the state’s prescription monitoring program would eliminate extra steps for pharmacists and reduce a great deal of overlapping and over-prescribing.
“I think we as a community—between pharmacists, patients, medical providers and education organizations like ours—need to do a better job of getting people the right information and making it easy to access the care they need.” said Tess Benham, senior program manager for prescription drug overdose initiatives at the National Safety Council. Her hope is that organizations seeking to educate patients work together to share data and offer communities the best information available.
“Our hope is to continue to pull people together and to continue to hear from you what your challenges are, to celebrate your successes with you and to work together to combat this problem at every level. ” Rep. Hultgren said.