Top Behavior Health Advocate Group Praises Rauner Approval of Youth DUI Law


Illinois Association for Behavioral Health Vice President for Substance Use Policy Eric Foster

(Springfield, IL) – A top Illinois behavioral health advocated lauded Governor Bruce Rauner’s approval on Tuesday of legislation requiring law enforcement to develop policies to care for intoxicated young people after a D.U.I. arrest, including attempts to contact a responsible adult.

“Providing new, standardized training for local law enforcement across the state on the appropriate police responses to youth arrested for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can potentially help avert individual and community tragedies,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health Vice President for Substance Use Policy Eric Foster. “We commend Governor Rauner for signing this measure to help to decrease harm to youth and others.”

The legislation is named after Conor Vesper, a 20-year old college student from Macoupin County who committed suicide hours after a drunk driving arrest. Vesper was the valedictorian of Staunton High School and an active campus leader at Blackburn College where he had earned a full ride scholarship.

“Following an arrest, it is critical that we protect impaired young people while they are still at risk for dangerous decision-making,” said Rauner. “Ensuring law enforcement has thoughtful policies related to the care of individuals under the influence that focus on reaching out to responsible adults will help prevent tragic situations and protect all Illinoisans.”

Conor’s Law requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to develop policies regarding the response and care for intoxicated young people after an arrest.

The bill’s chief sponsor, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), expressed his appreciation to Rauner and cited the bi-partisan effort to advance the legislation.

“I appreciate that Gov. Rauner saw the merit of this bipartisan legislation and chose to make it the law in Illinois,” said Manar. “Well over a year of work went into Conor’s Law and my only hope is that it prevents other families from experiencing the same heartbreak and anguish the Vespers experienced when they tragically lost their son, Conor. The Vesper family should be commended for their determination.”

Foster noted that IABH worked on the bill with Manar and praised the senator for his “thoughtful collaboration.”

“IABH worked with Senator Manar and his staff on the bill,” said Foster. “The senator’s thoughtful collaboration made it a good bill that we could support.”

Chicago Area Heroin Abuse Worst in the Country; Governor Pat Quinn Cuts Illinois Drug Prevention, Treatment Budget 30%

Heroin leaves its mark.

(Chicago, IL) — While the Chicago-area has been earning the infamous distinction of having a heroin abuse problem more extreme than anywhere else in the country in the last decade, according to a new report, Illinois has cut its drug prevention and treatment by more than 30% in the last two years.

The new state budget proposed by Governor Pat Quinn will slash Illinois drug prevention treatment for more than 2,500 Illinois residents, including drug prevention for 1,000 youth.

“For those of us in the drug prevention and treatment system, the explosion of heroin abuse among suburban Chicago youth is something we already knew,” said Eric Foster, Chief Operating Officer of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, referring to a new heroin usage report released today by Roosevelt University.

“In fact, all year, we were warning lawmakers and the governor’s office of the escalating heroin problem, pleading with them not to cut prevention and treatment funding,” said Foster. “But funding got cut anyway.”

“Governor Quinn’s budget cuts to the Illinois addiction healthcare system will eliminate care for more than 2,500 people, including drug prevention for1,000 youth,” said Foster.

Since 1995, the number of Illinois women in drug, alcohol treatment has surged 41%, but Quinn this year is still cutting treatment services by 8%, which will toss more than 2,500 out of treatment, of whom nearly 1,000 are women.

Quinn’s budget cuts to the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse budget for community treatment providers and funds for addiction prevention for community prevention providers are on top of a 22% cut last year.

“Relentless budget cuts are forcing the Illinois addiction healthcare system into a death spiral and women and youth confronting heroin are increasingly suffering the brunt of the budget pain,” said Foster.

In FY 2009, there were 89,909 individuals receiving treatment services, down from 101,105 in FY 2008, an 11.6% decrease.

“By further strangling the drug treatment system, threats to public safety by heroin will boil over,” said Foster.

In 2009, a resurgent heroin crisis killed more than 100 people in Northern Illinois alone, a crisis that is zeroing in on local teens. Meanwhile, Quinn’s proposed budget will eliminate drug prevention for more than 1,000 youth.

“The threat to public safety is not a hypothetical threat,” said Foster. “There are young people whose lives will be sacrificed to heroin because of prevention funding cuts.”

“We urge Speaker Michael Madigan, Minority Leader Tom Cross, Senate President John Cullerton, Minority Leader Christine Radogno and Governor Quinn to adjust the new state budget to eliminate drug prevention and treatment budget cuts.”