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Senate revives life-saving program with override (UPDATED)

heroin override

UPDATE: the Senate voted to override the governor's veto of HB1, making funding for heroin treatment effective. Read senators' statements after the override, below.

After a measure to address an urgent health crisis passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly in May, the governor vetoed House Bill 1, the Heroin Crisis Act, in August. The House voted to override that veto and the Senate looks to do the same this week.

“Citizens have demanded we address this public health crisis,” Senator Melinda Bush (Grayslake), sponsor of HB 1, said. “This comprehensive plan to reduce addiction and death must not be delayed further. I will cast my ‘Yes’ vote to override this veto and make this the law of the land, and I urge all my colleagues in the Senate to do the same.”

Among other provisions in the proposal is a section referred to as “Lali’s Law,” which would expand access to heroin overdose antidotes at local pharmacies. The law is so named for Alex “Lali” Laliberte, whose sister Chelsea formed the anti-heroin organization Live4Lali after her brother’s death by heroin overdose in 2008.

Live4Lali has been promoting the wider distribution and awareness of Narcan, an antidote that immediately halts the lethal chemical effects of a narcotics overdose with no adverse side effects and can be used safely with minimal training. Law enforcement officers in Lake County carry the small kits and have already reported several deaths averted by their use over the past year.

“I applaud Representative Lou Lang for his continued leadership and the Illinois House for coming together in a bipartisan fashion that will save lives and taxpayer dollars," Senator Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), also a sponsor of the measure in the Senate, said. "Investing in heroin addiction prevention gives people struggling with substance abuse the opportunity to survive and become productive members of our society. We owe it to the victims, families and youth of our communities to enact these protections as soon as possible, and I look forward to voting on this proposal in the Senate next week.”

“Law enforcement, medical professionals and the public have demanded action on this urgent issue,” Senator Linda Holmes (Aurora) said. “Governor Rauner delayed this plan, even as we know people are dying daily. I will vote to override this veto and urge my colleagues in the Senate to join me.”

The Heroin Crisis Act would create addiction treatment programs, public awareness and education campaigns and expand local pharmacy access to fast-acting heroin antidotes.

Senators' reaction after House Bill 1 passes:

“This measure is a true example of legislators working together in a bipartisan fashion to address a major issue our state faces,” said Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton). “As a former State’s Attorney, I know the importance of punishing the dealer and treating the addicted. This law will address the significant increase in heroin and opioid related deaths and overdoses that has cost Illinois $4 billion. It will help save lives and make sure addicts receive the treatment they need. This override was a necessary step in the effective handling of a statewide issue. ”

“Will County has been working to address its heroin epidemic for several years, and this new law is intended to help prevent tragedies from occurring in our community,” said Senator Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood). “It includes policy recommendations from several sources, including affected family members and addicts, law enforcement agencies, judges and doctors.”

“Today we put protections in place to help prevent our young people from making fatal decisions,” said Senator Tom Cullerton (Villa Park). “We have all seen that drug overdoses can happen to people regardless of their age, socioeconomic background or ethnicity.”

Narcan reverses the effects of overdose for heroin, cocaine, Vicodin, OxyContin and Morphine. The drug can be administered either by injection or nasal spray. Throughout the nation, fatal drug overdoses have increased six-fold over three decades, claiming 36,000 American lives every year.