Chicago Tribune Reveals Faces of Heroin Crisis in Chicago; Senator Mattie Hunter Wants Gov. Pat Quinn to Restore Drug Treatment Money

(Chicago, IL) – August 2, 2010. The Chicago Tribune‘s John Keilman on Sunday portrayed five lives–an addict, a cop, a mother, a landlord and a heroin survivor–that have confronted or are confronting the Chicago heroin crisis which is at ground-zero of a national crisis.

Keilman zeroed in on the face of today’s heroin crisis: youth.

But most who pass through the door are startlingly young: suburban teens and 20-somethings whose dalliance with the drug quickly became a consuming obsession.

After looking at hospital admissions, drug test results and overdose deaths, Roosevelt University researchers concluded recently that heroin abuse in the Chicago region is more extreme than anywhere else in the country. And young suburbanites are a primary reason.

They say the drug is alluring because it’s cheap and easy to obtain. It’s powerful, too, wrapping users in a numbing cocoon that seems to keep their troubles far away. That, of course, is a lie.

The release of the Roosevelt University report has also triggered a fierce reaction by a top Illinois lawmaker.

The study comes on the heels of Illinois budget cuts to state substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and has prompted State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) to call on Governor Pat Quinn to reverse recent Illinois budget cuts to drug treatment services.

Chicago's heroin crisis is striking at suburban youth.

“To stave off the escalating heroin crisis in Illinois, I am calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to reverse the budget cuts to substance abuse prevention and treatment. These cuts are not the answer, neither clinically nor financially, for the serious challenges facing our constituents and our state,” wrote Hunter in a letter recently published in the State Journal-Register.

Hunter notes that the report by Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy reveals more people in Chicago and its suburbs enter hospital emergency rooms for heroin use than in any other big U.S. city and that heroin-related deaths have escalated in Chicago’s collar counties, as heroin use among young, white suburbanites has exploded.

“As a certified alcohol and drug counselor with 18 years of experience in the field of drug treatment and prevention, I have seen first-hand the effectiveness of prevention and treatment. It works. And it is far less expensive than the emergency room and prison costs that will inevitably result in the wake of this crisis,” said Hunter, Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee.

Hunter’s appeal to Quinn for drug treatment funding restoration is drawing praise from a top drug prevention and treatment advocate.

State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) wants Gov. Pat Quinn to restore funding for drug treatment.

“Senator Hunter’s letter underscores the critical need for our services and reminds the public of the dangers of cutting the addiction prevention and treatment system. We are grateful to Senator Hunter for lending her voice to this issue,” said Sara Moscato Howe, President of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

According to Howe, the Quinn Administration cut funding for drug prevention and treatment by 22% last year and this year sliced another 8% while imposing an additional 3% budget “reserve”, meaning at least 2,500 people will lose treatment this year and approximately 1,000 youth will be cut off from prevention services.

“We can’t fight this heroin crisis raging in Chicago’s suburbs while our budgets are slashed; prevention services eliminated; and treatment care dismantled,” said Howe.

“We need to Governor Quinn to rescind budgets so we can confront the heroin killing fields in the suburbs.”

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