Landmark U.S. Surgeon General Report Lends Medical Weight to Addiction Fight as Illinois Retreats from Battlefield

spr_capitol_v2(Springfield, IL) – While a new, groundbreaking Surgeon General’s report finds alcohol and drug misuse and severe substance use disorders, commonly called addiction, to be one of America’s most pressing public health fights, Illinois is in a full financial retreat from the addiction battlefield.

“It’s time to change how we view addiction,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on November 17, 2016. “Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”

Nearly 21 million Americans – more than the number of people who have all cancers combined – suffer from substance use disorders. Of those, approximately 845,201 are in Illinois.

The report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, marks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders.

By issuing the first-ever report on addiction, the Surgeon General has lent the weight of “medical opinion” to the classification of substance use disorders as a health care issue, according to a top Illinois behavioral healthcare advocacy group.

“The Office of Surgeon General has for the first time recognized that addiction is a chronic health care issue whose treatment must be addressed on an equal footing with other chronic health care issues, such as diabetes, hypertension, etc.,” said Illinois Association of Behavioral Health CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “Unfortunately, in Illinois, the state’s financial commitment to fight addiction has floundered.”


Our View: As Illinois Heroin Crisis Spreads, Illinois Senate Eliminates Drug Prevention

Our View: “Couldn’t this tragedy have been prevented?”

After the tragic drug-related death of every child those words are uttered.

There is a visceral faith in the power of prevention. Nevertheless, Illinois drug prevention funding falls as the first victim to Illinois budget cuts. And the Illinois Senate took the first step this week to follow Governor Pat Quinn’s lead to eliminate Illinois drug prevention.

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) proposed a budget for next year to eliminate drug prevention services for more than 34,593 Illinois youth.

“This budget will break the back of Illinois’ drug prevention system – which has proven outcomes in reducing youth drug abuse – at the same time a heroin and synthetic drug epidemic is sweeping Illinois,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

Steans’ budget eliminates $2.6 million or 100% from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Family and Community Services for drug prevention, a cut that will cause 34,593 youth from receiving drug prevention services.

In fiscal year 2008 Illinois spent $7.5 million in state money on youth prevention.

“The days of heroin use being confined to the wrong people in the wrong towns are gone. It is a plague of all communities, all incomes and all children,” said Wayne Hunter, Lake County sheriff chief of administration, Daily Herald, January 31, 2012.

In Lake County, heroin deaths increased 130% from 2000 to 2009. In McHenry, in three years heroin deaths zoomed 150% higher. In Will County, in two years, deaths doubled.

And an escalation of heroin deaths has also struck Winnebago County.

“In the last several years I have seen an increase in the heroin use in the Rockford area.  I don’t think it is just the Rockford area I think it is across the whole country,” says Lt. Marc Welsh, Rockford Police Department.

For the first three months of 2012, 23 drug-related deaths have been caused either by heroin or cocaine or a combination of the two, according to the Winnebago County Coroner.

“If you follow through with the statistics we’ve had anywhere from the 50s to the 60s to the 70s as far as deaths for the entire year.  If you follow this through we are going to have well over 100 this year. And this is only January, February and March,” says Sue Fidducia, coroner.

“He was a good kid.  You couldn’t ask for a nicer kid. But the drugs tore him to pieces, made him a monster,” says Dave Reine of Rockford, last week remembering his son, Daniel, who became addicted in his early 20’s died of an overdose at 32.

In addition to heroin, synthetic drug use, like “K2”, “Spice” and “Bath Salts”, is an escalating problem among youth, said Howe.

“Illinois had one of the highest call rates to the Poison Control Centers for these synthetic drugs in 2010 and 2011,” said Howe.

“Year after year after year Illinois has tried to completely eliminate successful drug prevention programs to save a little money up front, but  such a move just ignites youth addictions, while a heroin and synthetic drug epidemic is sweeping the Chicago suburbs and down state Illinois,” said Howe.

Currently, untreated addiction costs the State of Illinois more than $3 billion a year. Meanwhile, drug prevention saves up to $35 for each dollar spent

“With heroin use by Illinois teens spreading like wild fire in the suburbs and downstate, nothing could be more foolish than cutting youth drug prevention in the middle of a crisis.” said Howe. “And Illinois will lose $2.6 million from federal matching money, even more foolish.”

Advocates Hail Quinn Signature on Meth Disruption Law, But Warn against Budget Cuts to Drug Prevention, Treatment Funding

Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Associaiton CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) ­– January 20, 2012. Illinois’ leading drug prevention and treatment advocacy group today welcomed Governor Pat Quinn’s signature on legislation that helps to disrupt Illinois meth production, but also warned the governor that the state’s efforts to combat drug abuse will falter if the already shrunken funding for prevention and treatment is reduced further in next year’s Illinois budget.

The new law signed by Quinn makes permanent a pilot program initially created to electronically track pseudoephedrine purchases that could be used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

“This program is a valuable tool that helps us prevent meth from getting into our communities by stopping production,” said Quinn. “Tracking the sales of items commonly used to manufacture meth has enabled us to nip production in the bud, and it is important to continue this program.”

The Methamphetamine Precursor Tracking Act took effect in 2009 and required pharmacies to track and block excessive purchases of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Since its implementation, the program has blocked more than 103,319 boxes – or 230,330 grams – of pseudoephedrine from being used for methamphetamine production in communities throughout Illinois, according to Quinn.

“Because this is an important tool to disrupt meth production, we welcome Governor Quinn’s signature on this law,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

“However, the principal line of defense against drug abuse in Illinois is drug prevention and treatment, for which state funding has been cut 30% since 2007,” said Howe. “To protect communities, we need Governor Quinn to shield the Illinois prevention and treatment budget from further cuts next year.”

Illinois’ non-Medicaid funding for prevention and treatment has fallen from $118 million in 2007 to $83 million this year, reducing the number of Illinois residents in treatment from 84,167 to 45,149, according to the most recent data.

“Unfortunately, meth production is starting to increase again across the state,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

“Attorney General Madigan’s warning about rising meth production underscores the consequence of Illinois’ prevention and treatment budget cuts,” said Howe. “That’s why we need Governor Quinn to preserve Illinois addiction prevention and treatment funds.”

Quinn is scheduled to unveil his fiscal year 2013 Illinois budget proposal on February 22.

Governor Pat Quinn Signs Budget Bill to Restore $28 Million to Illinois Substance Abuse Treatment Services

(Springfield, IL) – Governor Pat Quinn yesterday signed legislation that restores $28 million to Illinois substance abuse treatment services that were cut inadvertently earlier this year.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2412, reallocated money within the current Illinois budget to reinstate the treatment funding.

“We are thankful to Governor Quinn for signing the measure into law,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

The following budget line items were restored:

  • Addiction Treatment Medicaid: $7.6M
  • Addiction Treatment Services: $16.9M
  • Addiction Treatment for DCFS Clients: $2M
  • Addiction Treatment for Special Populations: $1.5M

The bill also includes $30 million for community-based mental health services, mental health centers, burial services for the homeless and the poor, homelessness prevention programs, and need-based financial aid for college students.

Finally, the legislation will ensure that no state-run mental health or developmental disability centers will be closed this fiscal year.

“The tireless advocacy efforts of IADDA and its member agencies were key to achieve this significant victory,” said Howe. “And the leadership and the commitment of State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and State Senator Heather Steans were absolutely central in the successful restoration.”

The current state budget runs until June 30, 2012.

Speaker Madigan Says Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence Are Top Budget Priorities Next Year

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

(Rockford, IL) – In remarks made in Rockford last week, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) laid out his state budget priorities for next year, which include protecting key groups of vulnerable Illinois citizens.

“There are certain items I think should happen such as money for mental health, money for community service providers that deal with substance abuse, domestic violence, Madigan says, “But beyond that, we need some tough negotiating, because Illinois doesn’t have that much money to spend today.”

Madigan’s comments drew praise from the state’s leading substance abuse prevention and treatment advocacy group.

“After suffering more than a 50% reduction of state funding in the last few years, we welcome Speaker Madigan’s willingness to back substance abuse treatment services, which save the state money, and to draw a line in the sand against further budget cuts,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.


Fresh Round of Illinois Budget Cuts Shutter Substance Abuse Treatment Services in Central Illinois

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) – Another punishing round of Illinois state government budget cuts to substance abuse treatment services approved by the legislature in May, averaging 26%, is triggering program closures and employee layoffs in Central Illinois.

“Though the Illinois General Assembly restored 75% of the substance abuse cuts proposed by Governor Pat Quinn, the 25% cut approved by lawmakers is still forcing program closures and employee layoffs,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

The Illinois fiscal year 2012 budget signed by Quinn, which began on July 1, reduces state funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment from $63 million in fiscal year 2011 to $47 million this year. In fact, over the past five years state funding has declined from $112 million to $47 million, according to Howe.

The latest round of budget cuts has forced the recent announcements of planned closures of treatment programs in both Champaign and Peoria.

The Urbana-based Prairie Center closed its detox program, which serves individuals from 62 Illinois counties, on September 1, eliminating service to 700 to 800 people and laying off 7 employees. The Illinois Department of Human Services, led by Secretary Michelle Saddler, cut $450,000 from The Prairie Center’s budget this year.

“Hospitals and emergency rooms will also be notified regarding the impact of these cuts,” said Bruce Suardini, The Prairie Center CEO. “Between 700 and 800 patients will lose services each year.”

In Peoria, the Human Services Center is closing its women’s residential treatment program, eliminating capacity for 125 women annually and laying off 27 employees on September 23, 11 of whom will come from the women’s program. Saddler’s agency cut $2,000,000 from the Human Services Center budget this year.

“It’s shameful that the State is limiting access to treatment for women in need and turning them out of their shelter” said CEO Fred Nirdé.

Howe is calling on the governor and top human service budget lawmakers to restore funding to this year’s budget for substance abuse prevention and treatment.

“Governor Quinn and State Representative Sara Feigenholtz and State Senator Heather Steans need to restore funding to prevention and treatment services as soon as possible to avoid the piece-meal collapse of an Illinois behavioral health care system that is already in shambles,” said Howe.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s Approval of Substance Abuse Treatment Parity Bill Cheers Backers

Gov. Pat Quinn

(Springfield, IL) – Governor Pat Quinn last week signed legislation that will ensure that all health insurance policies sold in Illinois will cover substance abuse treatment, mental health care and other disorders without gouging consumers for this type of insurance coverage, heartening parity supporters.

The legislation, House Bill 1530, sponsored by State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Senator Willie Delgado (D-Chicago), prevents insurers from imposing additional barriers within the policy – such as financial requirements, treatment limitations, lifetime limits or annual limits – to treatments for mental, emotional, nervous and substance abuse disorders if no such stipulations exist for other health conditions.

“When we talk about access to health care, we want to make sure that we are including all types of care,” Quinn said. “No one should be forced to forgo critical mental health care because of where they live or because their insurance charges more for the necessary treatment.”

“This landmark legislation will ensure that those who purchase health insurance in our state will now be able to seek medical attention for mental, emotional, and substance abuse treatment without having to pay for it out of pocket,” stated Delgado (D-Chicago), Chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee, the chief sponsor of the measure in the Senate.

Additionally, the bill prohibits insurance companies from charging exorbitant fees for these services or  requiring consumers to pay a separate fee for the coverage of these services, according to Delgado.

“This is a momentous day for the people of Illinois,” stated Delgado.  “This is the first time in our history that we are telling insurance companies that they may not discriminate against those with mental, emotional, nervous or drug related disorders.”

“With the governor’s approval of this law, employers will see decreased health care costs and increased worker productivity.” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “Additionally, across Illinois, we will see a reduction in accidents, absenteeism and crime while building healthy parents and families.”

Research shows that patients that have completed substance use disorder treatment have been shown to reduce emergency room visits by 39%, hospital stays by 35% and total medical costs by 26%, according to Howe.

“This legislation is an important step toward bringing health insurance parity to addiction health care,” said Lang.

The new Illinois new law exceeds the requirements of the recently-enacted federal mental health parity law, according to Lang.

“Federal enforcement is a more remote, lighter touch, relying on telephone calls and mail,” said Lang (D-Skokie). “By matching state law to the federal standards, the Illinois Insurance Department can enforce the federal standards more aggressively than the federal government could by virtue of state face-to-face enforcement activities.”

Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois House Divided over Illinois Budget

(Springfield, IL) — As the Illinois House of Representatives and Gov. Pat Quinn duke it out in the state budget ring, the House is about $3 billion lighter compared to the governor’s spending fund.

From the House’s $33.2 billion fiscal year 2012 budget plan, lawmakers set aside $23.8 billion to fund state agencies and services.

Quinn has a $26.9 billion spending fund for state agencies and services. The governor said the state should not forget about the “fundamental things in life (such as) public safety, health care and education.” He has strongly criticized the House’s projected “radical severe” cuts in education funding.


Illinois Senate, House Lack Agreement on Illinois Budget Revenue Estimates

Springfield, IL) — March 31, 2011. A budgetary battle could be brewing in the state Capitol, but not necessarily between Republicans and Democrats.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) appeared together Wednesday morning to deliver a joint message of fiscal discipline.

Madigan and Cross’ relationship has been cold in the past. It appeared Wednesday, however, that the two have teamed up to start pushing pieces of legislation that could end up being parts of the state’s budget.

The united front in the Illinois House could mean that this year’s budget could pit senators against state representatives, instead of the traditional Democrat vs. Republican.

A recently passed law requires that the Legislature lay out how much money it will have to spend before deciding who gets what. Governor Pat Quinn’s office, the House and the state Senate have all come up with different revenue projections.

Reconciling those, and therefore the different chamber’s budget bills, could be troublesome.

Madigan laid out one possibility Wednesday during the Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee. When the Senate and the House can’t come to some kind of agreement on a specific bill, five members from each chamber meet and try to hammer out the details in a conference committee.


As Other States Health Cut Care for the Poor, Gov. Pat Quinn Embraces Illinois Medicaid Reform, Patient Care Safeguards

(Springfield, IL) — States across the nation are ratcheting down Medicaid services and eligibility to hold down costs, but Illinois officials are standing by Medicaid reforms passed in January that Republicans claim just skim the surface.

The $14 billion state-federal program offers health insurance for mostly low-income children, pregnant women, parents with young children, senior citizens and the disabled. Chief among the reforms passed in January were a requirement to move 50 percent of the state’s 2.8 million Medicaid participants to a “medical home” within the next four years through “coordinated” or managed care, and to move residents from nursing homes and other institutional care into community-based settings.

Illinois Senate Republicans believe the state can do better than the $800 million in savings expected from the reforms during the next five years.

“That was a good step one,” said state Sen. Pam Althoff, R- Crystal Lake, who served on the Medicaid reform task force. “But there’s now a step two.”

Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, noted the reforms are intended to keep people healthy and thereby hold down costs.