Study: Illinois among the worst in providing treatment for heroin users as crisis escalates

- Heroin addiction is a bigger problem in Illinois than elsewhere around the country. Yet, the state is once again cutting drug treatment dollars.

Illinois now ranks third from the bottom in support for treating addiction, surpassing only Texas and Tennessee.

Those are among some of the findings of a new study by researchers at Roosevelt University.

As the horrifying heroin scourge spread from inner city to wealthy suburb, Gov. Quinn and now Gov. Rauner kept cutting life-saving treatment dollars. Addict Veronica Juarez hopes the cuts won't interrupt her program.

Growing up in a West Side home, where her elders used heroin, made it no big deal for Juarez to start snorting it at age 11.

“Being in a violent home and I was abused growing up, so I just wanted to numb the pain. Well, that's how it started. But, as time went by, it wasn't about numbing the pain anymore. I had to have it, because I would get sick,” she said.

Tragically, her heroin use has damaged another generation. Now 32 years old, Juarez has given birth nine times. She said two of her children died of complications from being born addicted.

Juarez is being treated at the Haymarket McDermott Center. The agency's state funding has been cut another 22 percent -- $1.5 million -- by Gov. Bruce Rauner's Administration.

That infuriates Roosevelt University researcher Kathie Kane-Willis. 

“People are dying in Quincy. People are dying in Springfield. People are dying in Metro East. People are dying in Chicago. People are dying in the suburbs…All over the state,” she said.

Kane Willis calls it's idiotic that, since 2009, Illinois has cut drug treatment funding by about 30 percent -- $46 million. She claims Illinois saves at least $12 for every dollar it spends treating drug addiction.

A spokeswoman for Rauner declined to answer specific questions about his cuts or about Heroin Crisis legislation sitting on his desk since June 26. She wrote, "Gov. Rauner looks forward to working with lawmakers on combating this problem."

“Can you imagine what it's going to be like, for a person who needs treatment now? There might not be a slot for them,” said VP of Haymarket Center Dan Lustig.

A mother of seven, Juarez said it was only after she got arrested and a Criminal Court judge ordered her into addiction treatment that she got into the program at Haymarket Center.

“I wanted to get help. I couldn't get it, because either the medical card didn't cover it or I didn't have the money for it,” Juarez said.

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