DuPage County, which adjourns Cook in Illinois, is a microcosm of the struggles of many communities in America with opioid addiction.
According to the DuPage County Coroner’s office, 78 people overdosed on heroin, fentanyl, or a combination of both, in 2016, a 53 percent increase from 2015. This comes after Chris Herren, a former NBA player who is in remission from an opioid addiction, spoke to students at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, a public school within the county, in 2014, in response to the opioid overdose death of Kaelen Mondragon, a former student of the school.
The current push by private citizens in DuPage County statistically has not been enough to prevent overdoses and the abuse of various medications. This has been attributed to numerous factors, including the demand for stronger types of opioids, as well as the increased profitability of the drug market in the county.
On the county level, however, the Coroner, Sheriff, State’s Attorney, Chiefs of Police, and the Health Department have come together to form the DuPage Narcan Program, a partnership that, according to their website, has one mission: “save lives.” The DNP gathers statistics about drug use, which in turn is used by officials within the communities of DuPage County to see which tactics are working and which are failing.
According to the DNP’s 2016 Annual Report, the number of victims who were saved from a heroin or fentanyl overdose was 145, an increase from 62 in 2015. Likewise, in an effort to treat those suffering from opioid addiction, the Edward-Elmhurst Health System opened a medication assisted therapy clinic in Naperville with the goal of allowing easier access to addiction treatment. Statistics are currently unavailable for the number of patients treated for opioid addiction, as the clinic recently opened earlier this summer.
While 74.4 percent of Illinoisans are supportive of the legalization of marijuana, according to a Southern Illinois University Poll, there is still a clear majority of citizens who are also in favor of a decrease in the use of opioids and narcotics, both of which, unlike marijuana, carry the risk of death with use.
The opioid epidemic will be a top priority for new Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Adams, an anesthesiologist and former Indiana State Health Commissioner, was sworn in after being nominated by President Trump. This comes after Trump dismissed Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s pick for Surgeon General, from the position.
Adams seems an unlikely pick for the President, as he is an African American who has openly supported the election of Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin for being the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. However, critics argue that Trump dismissed Murthy to solely continue the undoing of everything put in place under the Obama Administration.
In his statement to the Senate Committee, Adams stated that one of his top priorities as Surgeon General is to focus on the opioid epidemic. “Our nation is facing a drug crisis,” Adams said. “The addictive properties of prescription opioids is a scourge in America and it must be stopped.”
The need for a stronger approach to the opioid crisis in the country is apparent. In order for this to occur, an emphasis on science over politics will need to be in place. When asked about the importance of “picking science over politics” by Washington Senator Patty Murray during his nomination hearing, Adams simply responded with a yes.
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