Illinois to use money from lawsuits against drug distribution companies to fund new programs
CHICAGO - Illinois continues to struggle in the grips of an opioid epidemic.
Starting next year, the state plans to begin using millions of dollars from lawsuits against drug distribution companies to fund new recovery programs, and we now have an idea of what that could look like.
"We continue to see drug overdose fatalities at alarmingly high rates, especially that fentanyl is everywhere in the heroin supply at this point," said Dr. Juleigh Nowinski-Konchak from Cook County Health.
Cook County recorded more than 1900 opioid-related deaths in 2021, up four percent from the previous year. It is estimated more than 74,000 Illinois residents have an opioid use disorder.
"The highest rate of fatal overdose continues to be seen in populations that are male, identify as African American, in the older 55 to 64 age range in neighborhoods with less resources," said Nowinski-Konchak.
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Over the summer, Illinois received a $760 million settlement from lawsuits against the nation's three biggest drug distribution companies and the drug maker Johnson & Johnson.
The governor announced those funds would be used over the next 18 years with guidance from an advisory committee.
The plan could include safe drug consumption sites.
Cook County Health currently has a bridge clinic, that assists families with entry or re-entry into drug addiction treatment, offering advice with a personalized approach.
"We care about you no matter what, and if you're consuming substances you can do things such as not use alone, you can take a test to make sure you're not consuming fentanyl and what you're consuming is what you think," said Nowinski-Konchak.