A new study reports that Chicago has the highest rate of heroine overdose-related emergency room visits for any major U.S. city.
To combat what law enforcement is calling an “epidemic” of heroin use, U.S. police departments have begun carrying a drug that reverses an overdose.
In Illinois, the DuPage County sheriff's office is using the emergency measure, but the Chicago Police Department does not have a program operating as yet.
New York Attorney General Erik T. Schneiderman announced this week that his office will provide funding for the New York City Police Department to supply its 20,000 officers with the overdose antidote drug naloxone. New York follows the lead of the police department in Quincy, Mass., the first to require its officers to carry naloxone. The opioid antagonist counteracts the fatal respiratory and central nervous system depression.
Despite an OD rate worse than New York City's and the relative affordability of New York's program, the CPD has not yet adopted naloxone use. The CPD did not comment. New York's Community Overdose Prevention plan for NYPD will cost approximately $1.1 million, funded largely by money seized from drug dealers.
“There are plans to bring on some of the local officers and stations in Chicago. We're in the process of meeting about it now,” said Lillian Pickup, an administrator with the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, a division of the Department of Health Services. “They do have it in DuPage County...It's much different to go into the City of Chicago than it is to go into a suburb where the health department takes on a leadership role.”
“We do have a law in Illinois that allows any trained citizen to carry and administer it,” said Maura Possley, press secretary for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. “Our office is supportive of naloxone.”
Illinois Public Act 096-0361, otherwise known as the amended “Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse and Dependency Act,” allows the Director of the Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to “establish or authorize programs for prescribing, dispensing, or distributing naloxone hydrochloride or any other similarly acting and equally safe drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of drug overdose.”
Currently, emergency responders throughout the area carry naloxone, but they are not always the first on the scene in drug-related incidents. The kits cost about $60 each.
In Chicago, heroin use has risen due to a number of factors. According to a Roosevelt University study entitled “Understanding Suburban Heroin Use,” many suburban users drive or catch rides into Chicago's West Ride to buy heroin.
According to the study, only alcohol ranks higher for admissions to substance abuse treatment centers (“rehabs”) in Illinois. The study also reports that Chicago presently has the highest number of heroin overdose-related emergency room visits for any major U.S. city.