- Published: Monday, April 24, 2017 09:44 AM
GILLESPIE – Decimated funding for addiction treatment, public health, job training and affordable housing perpetuate the cycle of despair in rural Illinois that leads to problems like the opioid abuse epidemic that plagues Macoupin County and areas of the state, Senator Andy Manar said Wednesday.
“I fear that this cycle of despair is exactly what’s happening right now in too many parts of Illinois. We will not solve this problem by spending less on it,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and chairman of one of the Senate’s two appropriations committees.
“I will not vote for any state budget that cuts addiction treatment and prevention services under any circumstance, because I see the effects of that kind of short-sighted decision-making every day in the community where I live.”
Manar was joined in Gillespie Wednesday by Macoupin County officials, local police chiefs and mayors, drug addiction experts and others to discuss the effects of the state budget stalemate on the opioid abuse epidemic in the county.
- Video: Senator Manar speaks about state budget cuts
- Video: Senator Manar, Sheriff Kahl and Angela Weidner discuss the opioid epidemic
The group urged area residents to participate in an April 29 drug takeback event at four pharmacies in the southern part of the county to responsibly rid homes of unwanted prescription medications that can fuel drug abuse and, later, heroin addiction.
“Anyone who can take their unused prescription drugs to this event – and anytime to the local police department – you’re saving lives,” said Angela Weidner, chief operating officer of the Maple Street Clinic in Gillespie. “That’s what this is about: saving lives and stopping a population of orphans, because that’s where we’re headed.”
Eleven people died of drug overdoses in 2016 in Macoupin County, largely because of opioids and heroin, according to figures from the county coroner. In 2015, there were six fatal drug overdoses.
Since Jan. 1 this year, 60 percent of the controlled substance felony filings in Macoupin County have been opioid related, assistant state’s attorney Jordan Garrison said Wednesday.
And Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl and other law enforcement officials have said burglaries and thefts are up in the county largely because of addicts in search of their next fix, no matter the cost.
Statistics like these play out in rural communities throughout Illinois. Yet, the governor does not consider addiction treatment and prevention programs a budget priority, Manar said. The governor’s budget shows a cut of $14 million for non-Medicaid addiction treatment services in his proposed budget for FY18 ($38.6 million) when compared to FY15 ($52.6 million).
In addition, delayed payments to addiction treatment centers in rural parts of Illinois, such as the Wells Center in Jacksonville, have pushed them to the brink of closure.
Weidner offered examples of how these misplaced priorities currently are affecting two families at her clinic:
- An addicted mother lost her children to state custody. She has been on a wait list for inpatient rehab for three months. Weidner said she has begged every rehab in the state to accept the woman, but none will do so because she is on Medicaid.
- An addicted father recently lost custody of his daughter. The girl’s mother is in prison. Medicaid recently changed a rule so that it no longer will pay for men to go to inpatient rehab.
“We have all these people who need help and want help, and there’s no worse feeling in the world than to say no,” Weidner said, adding that there are additional hurdles for patients in rural areas once they are able to get healthy, including barriers to employment and affordable housing.
To try to deter more addictions, Manar and Macoupin County officials are urging local residents to empty their homes of unused and unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications. It won’t solve the epidemic but it’s a meaningful step everyone can take to help, Manar said.
“Prescriptions and other medicines typically aren’t locked up in our homes. So if you have someone coming over to visit or your children have their friends over, these things are ripe for the taking, either to fuel addiction or to be sold to somebody else,” Manar said. “And we know that addiction to pain killers leads to heroin addiction. So what can the average person do to combat that? They can clean out their medicine cabinets.”
Drug takeback event in Macoupin County: 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, April 29. Free and available to the public. Drop off unwanted medication at these four sites:
- Sullivan’s Pharmacy, 101 E. Main St., Staunton
- Michelle’s Pharmacy, 494 West Side Square, Carlinville
- Michelle’s Pharmacy, 120 S. Macoupin St., Gillespie
- Michelle’s Pharmacy, 809 S. Franklin St., Bunker Hill
In addition, unwanted medication can be disposed of throughout the year at the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office, 215 S. East St., Carlinville. A drop box is available in the lobby 24 hours a day. The Staunton and Gillespie police departments also have drop boxes.
For more information about the Macoupin County Anti-Meth Coalition, visit its Facebook page.
(Photo caption: State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, speaks during an April 19, 2017, news conference about the opioid abuse epidemic in Macoupin County and about how state budget cuts to human services under Gov. Bruce Rauner have affected rural Illinois' ability to battle the crisis. Joining Manar at the Maple Street Clinic in Gillespie are (from left to right): Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl; Angela Weidner, chief oeprating officer and director of nursing at the Maple Street Clinic; Macoupin County Assistant State's Attorney Jordan Garrison; Paula Campbell from the Illinois Primary Health Care Association and the Macoupin County Anti-Meth Coalition; and Staunton Police Chief Jeff Doerr.)