The diverse group that makes up Lee County's addiction community testified Monday afternoon on the opioid crisis. The group included recovering addicts, loved ones of addicts, medical professionals, law enforcement, and city leaders.
Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti co-chairs Governor Bruce Rauner's Opioid Task Force. Right now it's on a listening tour throughout the state to hear what different communities are doing and pull that information together for the state's Opioid Action Plan.
"We can't sleep on it, people are dying," says Sanguinetti. "This is illuminating to see what they're doing, how they could receive help in the future so they're better able to help people going through this epidemic themselves."
On Monday Lee County experts outlined things that are going well in the fight against addiction, like Dixon's Safe Passages program, which connects addicts with counselors and help instead of arresting them. Experts also touched on what they'd like to see to make an even bigger impact.
"We talked about some reform with prescription opioids going forward," says Sinnissippi Centers CEO Patrick Phelan. "We know 4 out 5, 85% of individuals start off with a prescription drug whether they got it legally or not."
Phelan says another concern moving forward, is as programs like Safe Passages are mirrored in other communities, the availability of open beds and and space at treatment centers becomes an obstacle.
"Yeah we're going to run into a capacity issue," says Phelan. "Then is becomes how do we incentive the creation of treatment centers in rural areas."
But he's hopeful the Opioid Task Force will take all it's learned in Lee County to heart and keep it in mind when making future decisions.
"Just to have the audience of our lieutenant governor, lawmakers, department directors here today. That's a big thing. I see them attending to the things we're saying, taking notes. We definitely want to see that bear fruit and lead to some changes."