To combat Macoupin County’s growing opioid abuse problem, a state lawmaker joined law enforcement Wednesday in announcing an initiative to bring greater awareness to the issue.
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and local officials said a drug take-back event on April 29 will allow residents to drop off unwanted medication to help prevent more drugs from ending up on the street.
“What we wanted to do was to offer something simple to the residents of the county that they could do in very clear and easy terms to help battle a couple of problems that Macoupin County is facing today,” Manar said, citing growth of prescription drug addiction that leads to heroin addiction.
In 2016, 11 people died of fatal drug overdoses in Macoupin County. Ten were from prescription opioids and one from heroin. In 2015, there were six fatal drug overdoses.
Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl, said that “this has become a real epidemic.” Additionally, he said it’s hard for law enforcement to keep up because the drug abuse is spreading so rapidly.
“A lot of people ask, ‘What’s going on?’ I don’t know. You’ll have a lot of heroin problems (one year), and the next year, you’ll have a lot of heroin plus methamphetamine problems,” he said. “The amount of people coming into the jail these days on controlled-substance charges is crazy. You just can’t keep up with it; it just changes so dramatically.”
Manar blasted Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for his budget proposal not to restore funding in the upcoming fiscal year to addiction-prevention programs.
“In Springfield, the approach lately from Governor Rauner has been to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic by slashing programs that deal with this problem directly. That is the opposite approach that we should be taking,” Manar said.
A Rauner spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Angela Weidner, chief operating officer of the Maple Street Clinic in Gillespie, the site of Wednesday’s news conference, agreed with Manar and said the state’s budget crisis has limited the clinic’s ability to serve people in need.
“I wish that Governor Rauner could come here and see when I have to tell a mom that I can’t help her,” Weidner said. “Then that mom ends up in jail, then we put more on our county court system and our jail. We’re going to have a new generation of orphans if we don’t do something to stop this.”
The drug-disposal event in Macoupin County is from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, April 29 -- which is drug take-back day nationally -- and will allow residents to drop off unused prescription medication at pharmacies throughout the county. Residents can also drop off their unused medications year-round at police departments throughout Illinois.