The Governor’s new Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force was in East Peoria, learning how to best implement its Opioid Action Plan.
The Task Force held a conference at the Morton Community Bank-Clock Tower.
Members of the task force, including Co-chair Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, listened to those personally impacted by the epidemic that took nearly 2,000 lives in the state in 2016.
Tazewell County resident Bryce Foster was one of those who spoke before the Task Force, describing his nine year battle with addiction.
“I struggled with mental health issues and early on learned that substance abuse kind of relieved some of the mental pain,” he explained.
Things hit a low for Foster when spent sixteen months in prison after an violent incident with a police officer while he was on drugs. At the same time, friends of his were committing suicide because they couldn’t cope with disease and addiction any longer.
“It was pain. It was misery. Death was often the easier alternative,” he said.
Foster bounced between treatment facilities, saying many didn’t work for him. But over time, he learned something new from each that eventually helped him overcome his abuse problems.
“I learned how to cope and about impulse control and taking care of my mental illness,” he said. “It really started to come together when I treated it as more than just a bad decision.”
He explained to Sanguinetti, as well as local political and law enforcement leaders that it’s important to listen and understand what causes dependency on opioids.
“When they come to you and ask for help, they need help. And if you know as much as you can, you can send them in the right direction,” Foster explained.
The Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force is in search of information and partners to help implement the state’s Opioid Action Plan to curtail the growing opioid overdose epidemic in Illinois.
The number of state deaths doubled between 2013 and 2016.
Sanguinetti says she’s often asked if we are relying too much on narcan to prevent death.
“My answer is what if that’s your brother? What if that’s your sister? There’s not a number to cut these folks off,” she explained.
Sanguinetti said the goal of the Opioid Action Plan is reduce the anticipated number of opioid-related deaths by one-third in three years. The Plan identifies three areas of focus: prevention, treatment/recovery, and response.
According to Foster, the most important thing that needs to change is the stigma against abusers.
“Society doesn’t understand what drives these things. All they see are the negative and people wont come forward and ask for help. All they see is the garbage.”