$3.3 billion up for grabs to battle the opioid epidemic - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

$3.3 billion up for grabs to battle the opioid epidemic

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, says there's more than $3 billion federal dollars to help our area solve the problem.

But, it's not clear as to how much of that money will make it's way to Rockford. 

"It depends on the applications. Most of these are grants so they have to step up and ask for it," he says. "So, I'm trying to encourage those that are in the business to take it very seriously." 

One agency looking into applying for those dollars is Mercyhealth. 

Just last year, the health system says it saw 54 babies born exposed to opioids. That's an increase from the 41 it saw in 2016.   

An exposure to those drugs could mean the baby spends more time in the NICU before going home. 

"It affects their ability to eat because they are so jittery they just can't focus so they are just inconsolable," Dr. Gillian Headley, the NICU director with Mercyhealth says.  

To help prevent that from happening, Mercyhealth officials say they want to create a program that targets women addicted to opioids. They would then counsel the mother throughout her pregnancy to make sure the child doesn't suffer from the side effects from being exposed. 

"We didn't know is you know how we would fund a program like that so this would be an excellent way of funding a program that takes care of mothers before the babies are born," Headley says. 

Rosecrance, Remedies and more are also eying those dollars. But how much they need and what they'll get is still a big question they're hoping for an answer as soon as possible.   

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