Advocates Welcome Quinn OK of Illinois Heroin Study, But Criticize Drug Treatment, Prevention Budget Cuts

Governor Pat Quinn signing legislation earlier this month.

Governor Pat Quinn signing legislation earlier this month.

(Springfield, IL) – Advocates today welcomed a new heroin research initiative approved by Gov. Pat Quinn, but criticized budget cuts to Illinois drug treatment and prevention under the governor’s watch.

Quinn on Tuesday signed legislation to fight heroin use in communities across Illinois through a new law that will expand the scope of a special task force created last year to study heroin use in Illinois and make recommendations to increase awareness and prevention.

“Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to strengthen drug prevention efforts and save lives,” according to the governor’s press statement.

The legislation, House Bill 4542, sponsored by State Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) and State Senator Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park), expands the age range to be studied by the Young Adult Heroin Use Task Force to students in grades six through 12.

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Addiction Health Care Advocates Urge Illinois House Passage of Health Insurance Parity Plan

House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie)

(Springfield, IL) – April 4, 2011. The full Illinois House is expected on Tuesday, April 5, to vote on legislation requiring parity of health insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment services in Illinois, and the state’s top addiction health care advocate group is calling on lawmakers to approve the plan.

“We strongly encourage legislators to support health insurance parity for Illinois residents with substance use disorders,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

The measure, House Bill 1530, was approved 10-0 by the House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee on March 16. Advocates claim the legislaiton will generate health care savings and boost worker productivity.

“With this legislation, employers will see decreased health care costs and increased worker productivity.” said 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.

The bill is being sponsored by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

At the March 16 committee hearing, Illinois Department of Insurance Director Michael McRaith testified that the independent U.S. Congressional Budget Office found that parity will only cause health insurance premiums to rise by 0.4 percent.

Additionally, Howe also stressed the importance of ensuring that Illinoisans in need of substance use disorder treatment have equal access to addiction services and equitable insurance coverage.

“Addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, and paying for its treatment yields as good a return as paying for treatment for other chronic illnesses.”  said Howe.

In addition to Lang, House sponsors include State Reps: Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), Will Davis (D-Chicago) and Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign).

In addition to IADDA, other bill supporters include: Humana Healthcare, the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois State Medical Society, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Nurses Association, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, Illinois Psychological Association, United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois, Don Moss & Associates, Association of Community Mental Health Authorities of Illinois, Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities and the Child Care Association of Illinois

“This legislation will improve access to lifesaving addiction treatment by limiting the discriminatory barriers that have kept hundreds of Illinois citizens with substance use disorders from receiving the care they desperately need,” Howe added.

Illinois Senate Backs Bill to Ban Alcoholic Energy Drinks in Illinois

(Springfield, IL) — March 31, 2011. The Illinois state senate yesterday approved a measure that would ban the manufacture and sale of alcoholic energy drinks in Illinois, drawing praise from the state’s top substance abuse advocacy group.

Some parents and schools blame the drinks for a number of young people needing medical care and a handful of deaths.

“Alcoholic energy drinks are a menace to youth in Illinois. Manufacturers market these drinks to young people and convey the false impression that caffeine-laced alcohol counteracts the physical impairment of drinking,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “The Senate took an important step to protect lives of Illinois youth and others, and we applaud their action.”

The Senate approved the legislation, sponsored by State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 50, 54-1.

Illinois is the latest state to propose a ban on the drinks, such as the infamous Four Loko. The drink is described as having the caffeine punch of an energy drink and the alcohol impact of a bottle of malt liquor.

“These drinks create a false sense of security and actually encourage youth to drink more,” said Moscato Howe. “Alcohol energy drinks are a public health hazard.”

Four Loko is an Illinois-based company. The FDA is investigating the drinks and the state of Washington has already banned it. The company itself has voluntarily removed caffeine from the drink.

The legislation covers only the manufactured drinks that are sold in single serve cans.

Moscato Howe notes that popular cocktails such as vodka and the energy drink Red Bull are still served in bars across the state.

The measure now moves to the Illinois House. State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) is sponsoring the bill in that chamber.