SPRINGFIELD – Social workers practice in a variety of settings with individuals, families and communities affected by substance use disorders, which results in encounters with individuals at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose. For this reason, State Senator Karina Villa advanced a measure that would allow social workers to administer opioid antagonists, which is an initiative from social workers at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The opioid epidemic is still ongoing and we must do everything we can to prevent future fatalities from occurring,” said Villa (D-West Chicago). “Licensed clinical social workers and licensed social workers are on the frontlines of these issues severely affecting our communities and should be allowed to administer lifesaving medication.”

Senate Bill 3779 allows a licensed clinical social worker or licensed social worker to possess and administer opioid antagonists. Opioid antagonists, such as Naloxone, temporarily block the effects of an overdose and restore breathing. Employers of social workers would be required to provide training and establish a policy to control the acquisition, storage, transportation, and administration of opioid antagonists.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 3,261 opioid overdose deaths occurred in 2022, an 8.2% increase from 2021. The Opioid Data Dashboard demonstrates that a fatal overdose occurred in almost every county Illinois. The widespread use of opioids effects all age groups from young adolescents to seniors aged 85 and above.

“Providing social workers with the ability to administer opioid antagonists will save lives,” said Villa. “These are individuals who work closely with affected communities and have the professional capability of adequately administering this medication.”

Senate Bill 3779 passed the Senate Licensed Activities Committee on Wednesday.