Durbin: Illinois Awarded $917,000 in Federal Funding to Strike Back at Prescription Drug Overdose Epidemic

Senator has led the call for a national comprehensive plan and increased state resources to reduce overdose deaths

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that the Illinois Department of Human Services has received $917,661 in federal funding through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program. The new program provides states like Illinois with resources and support to advance comprehensive state-level interventions for preventing prescription drug overuse, misuse, abuse, and overdose. More information about the program is available here.


“As I have traveled throughout our state, I have met too many Illinois families who have been touched by the opioid abuse epidemic that is sweeping our country. Their stories, sadly, are repetitive, and many begin with prescription drugs,” Durbin said. “This funding will provide much-needed resources to the communities in our state that are on the frontlines of this crisis.”


Durbin spoke earlier this week at Chicago’s International Overdose Awareness Day Rally – part of a global annual event to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. Over the last several weeks, Durbin has also met with local advocates, law enforcement officials, health professionals, and people affected by heroin and opioid addiction throughout Illinois to discuss ways to combat the growing problem.


Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has more than doubled, and in most states the number now exceeds the number of traffic-related deaths. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of preventable injury death, resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths each year, with most involving either prescription opioids or heroin. In Illinois, there were 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – an increase of nearly 29 percent since 2010.


With the funding announced today, Illinois intends to improve the appropriate use of prescription opioid medications by focusing on two priority strategies:


  • Enhancing and maximizing the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP): Monitoring programs like PMP help providers and dispensers better monitor prescription drug utilization, ultimately helping crack down on potential abuse. Illinois plans to improve its current system for monitoring prescription drug distribution by developing a universal registration system which would streamline processes and allow for integration into existing electronic healthcare records systems. These new systems will also enhance and expedite data collection and reporting, which will allow public health departments to identify and address high-risk patients and prescribing.


  • Implementing community and health systems interventions: Illinois will use this grant to build up the capacity of local health departments – particularly in “hot spot” communities – to respond to the growing abuse of prescription opioids. The state will also develop and implement statewide guidelines for opioid prescribing interventions.


In March, Durbin introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) program, which provides grants to states to maintain, improve, and expand their prescription drug monitoring programs. Prescription narcotic drugs are the number one cause of overdoses in the United States. The program was originally signed into law in 2005.


In June, Durbin introduced the Overdose Prevention Act, which would expand access to naloxone, as well as drug overdose prevention programs that have been proven to save lives. The Overdose Prevention Act aims to decrease the rate of drug overdose deaths by improving access to naloxone, supporting overdose prevention programs, enhancing surveillance of overdose occurrences, and establishing a coordinated federal plan of action to address the epidemic.


In May, Durbin cosponsored the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act). The bill would not only lift the cap on the number of patients physicians can treat using medication assisted therapies, but it would also enable nurse practitioners and physicians assistants trained in addiction medicine to treat patients with medication assisted therapies.


In December, Durbin and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) led a group of twenty-one Senators in calling on HHS to prioritize programs that reduce heroin and other opioid overdose deaths in its national strategy to curb prescription drug abuse. Both Senators have been active in highlighting the need for expanded access to overdose education, naloxone distribution, and access to substance abuse treatment services and other follow-up care.