Illinois leader discusses opioid crisis in Rockford - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Illinois leader discusses opioid crisis in Rockford

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

The opioid crisis isn't just a state problem....

"About a year and a half ago, I found out my son was addicted to heroin." 

That was Joanne. And like many moms, she says she didn't know how to cope with it. 

"I was mad at him, i was mad at myself for enabling him," said Joanne.

But, after struggling with her own addiction to alcohol, she says that anger turned to resolve to spread awareness about the dangers of opioids and addiction.

"It's not something to be shunned at or frowned upon, the behaviors and the ramifications of your disease are not because we're bad people," said Joanne.

Breaking that stigma surrounding addiction is one of the top priorities for Illinois' Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, who's leading the state's new task force to fight the opioid epidemic.

"A lot of people think of it as a choice and its actually a disease and so we need to call it what it is and we need to get out there and let people know what it is," said Sanguinetti.

Along with raising awareness, the task force plans to focus on increasing intervention and treatment options, as well as working to decriminalize opioid addiction. 

 "People need treatment and they need to be able to get to that treatment rather than face judgment and arrest," said Sanguinetti.

That's something Sanguinetti wants to change in Rockford. 

"Even though it knows no neighborhood, no color or no class, Rockford has been hit hard, really hard," said Sanguinetti. 

"It's good to know they are going to try," said Joanne.

Joanne's hope is this new push to solve the problem means it won't have to hit hard for any more families in Rockford. 

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