Durbin Discusses Initiatives to Address Opioid Crisis with DuPage County Leaders

WHEATON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with several DuPage County officials to discuss local efforts to combat the onoing heroin and opioid crisis. Durbin has introduced several pieces of legislation to combat the volume of addictive painkillers on the market, improve prescribing practices, expand treatment for heroin addiction, and increase access to drug prevention programs that have been proven to save lives.

“In recent years, Illinois – like the rest of the country – has seen an alarming increase in drug overdose deaths. There isn’t a city too small or a suburb too wealthy to be spared, as most new addictions begin with the over-prescription of opioids,” Durbin said. “With heroin use on the rise, we should be committing serious resources to shut off the spigot that is fueling this crisis.  That means stemming the tide of opioids flooding the market and increasing accountability to ensure these addictive drugs are being prescribed responsibly.”

Illinois experienced 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – a nearly 30 percent increase since 2010. Forty percent of those deaths were associated with heroin. Illinois is ranked number one in the nation for a decline in treatment capacity between 2007 and 2012 – and is now ranked the third worst in the country for state-funded treatment capacity. Nationally, the number of deaths from heroin overdoses more than tripled since 2010. Yet according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, less than 12 percent of the 21.5 million Americans suffering with a substance use disorder received specialty treatment in 2014.

To expand access to treatment for those fighting the disease of addiction, Durbin earlier this year introduced the Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion (Medicaid CARE) Act, which would modify the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion policy—a decades-old Medicaid policy that has had the unintended consequence of limiting treatment for our most at-risk populations. The measure would allow more than 2,000 additional Medicaid beneficiaries in Illinois to receive care annually.

Currently, the IMD Exclusion prohibits the use of federal Medicaid financing for care provided to most patients in residential mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities larger than 16 beds. Illinois has 585 residential addiction treatment beds across 15 facilities that are larger than the 16-bed threshold and thus ineligible for Medicaid payments. 

The legislation also establishes a new $50 million youth grant program to fund inpatient substance abuse treatment to Medicaid beneficiaries younger than 21 in underserved, high-risk and rural communities.

Durbin is also a cosponsor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) which would authorize grants to help states adopt a comprehensive approach to the opiate crisis that involves law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the public health system and the recovery support community. CARA was passed by the Senate ealier this month, but the bill falls short of providing the required funding to implement many of the important programs in the legislation. Prior to final passage of the legislation, the Senate defeated an amendment – supported by Durbin – that would have provided $600 million in supplemental appropriations to fund opioid abuse prevention and treatment programs. 


Last year, Durbin introduced the Overdose Prevention Act which aims to decrease the rate of drug overdose deaths by improving access to naloxone - a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.  The bill would provide funding to community-based organizations to purchase and distribute naloxone and carry out overdose prevention activities, such as educating prescribers and pharmacists or training first responders. 

Last month, Durbin and U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-08) wrote a letter to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), urging the industry to take financial responsibility for its role in curtailing the opioid overdose epidemic, as other major stakeholders have done.  Early this year, Illinois-based Walgreens announced that it will install safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 500 of their drugstores to help in this effort.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids – including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin – killed more than 28,000 people in 2014.  Four out of five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioids.  One way to help combat misuse of prescription opioids is to get unused medications out of people’s homes where they are prone to misuse, abuse, and diversion.  Drug “take-back programs” can be especially helpful in providing secure locations for people to dispose of their unused pills. However, voluntary initiatives to establish these collection receptacles for disposal have been minimal to date, largely because of cost.  This is where the pharmaceutical industry can, and should, help.