ManarMapleStreetWebGILLESPIE – On the heels of at least seven fatal drug overdoses in the Gillespie area in August, State Senator Andy Manar and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin met Monday with officials from the Maple Street Clinic to learn more about the opioid abuse problem sweeping communities throughout Illinois.

The Maple Street Clinic is an outpatient treatment program in Gillespie that was established by the Macoupin County Public Health Department in May after officials there recognized a fast-growing addiction problem in the region and inadequate resources to help people.

“I am extremely proud of the clinic, the work the staff is doing and the success they’ve had in the short time they’ve been in operation. The program can be a model for other rural communities that are looking for ways to address this deadly epidemic,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who represents much of Macoupin County.

“Unfortunately, the demand for treatment already has outpaced the clinic’s capacity. We need more treatment programs in Illinois, and we must do a better job of ensuring that people who get clean are able to return to work or school, find a place to live, care for their children and continue to receive the therapy they need to stay clean. Stable state funding for human services is critical to solving this problem and getting people back on their feet.”

Currently, 74 people are on a wait list for help from the Maple Street Clinic. Some clients travel more than an hour each way twice a week for treatment there because programs in downstate Illinois are so difficult to find and to get into. People from as far away as Springfield, Vandalia and St. Louis have sought treatment in Gillespie.

Opioid abuse has become a national epidemic, affecting urban and rural communities alike. Opioids include widely prescribed pain killers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone and Fentanyl, as well as the illegal drug heroin. They are highly addictive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the amount of prescription opioids dispensed between 1999 and 2013 nearly quadrupled in the United States, contributing to an unprecedented number of overdose deaths in 2014.

Nationally, experts estimate that only 1 out of 8 opioid-addicted people are in a treatment program.

Durbin said federal legislation is pending that could provide more money for opioid addiction treatment. Maple Street is funded with a $650,000 federal grant for two years.

Manar and Durbin visited with two clients, both of whom became addicted to opioids after being prescribed pain killers by doctors. One of the clients and her young son currently are homeless because she hasn’t been able to find affordable housing since getting clean.

Manar was among the state lawmakers who voted in September 2015 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s partial veto of the Heroin Crisis Act – legislation that, as a result of the override, has helped some Maple Street Clinic clients by allowing Medicaid to fully cover their heroin addiction treatment.

The governor vetoed parts of the legislation claiming the state could not afford it, even though studies show that every dollar spent on addiction treatment saves $12 on prison, court and emergency room costs.

The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy estimates that about 80 percent of people needing treatment for heroin or prescription opioid addictions do not have health insurance that covers the cost of treatment.

Between 2010 and 2014, more than 500 people died from heroin and opioid drug overdoses in Macoupin, Montgomery, Sangamon, Madison and Jersey counties. Statewide, more than 2,100 people died of heroin doses between 2013 and 2015, and nearly 3,000 others suffered fatal overdoses from other drugs, including prescription opioids.

Among the Gillespie-area overdose deaths in August were two 40-year-old women, one of whom left behind four children, including an infant, and a 22-year-old man who had been released from jail the day before.

“This is a problem that requires all hands on deck and an understanding that it’s not something that police and judges can solve,” Manar said. “It’s far less expensive and more humane to fund treatment centers than it is to throw addicts in jail and tear apart families. Doctors, government leaders, public health officials, law enforcement – we all have to be part of the solution.”


PHOTO: Angela Weidner, chief operating officer of the Maple Street Clinic in Gillespie, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) discuss the opioid abuse epidemic in downstate Illinois and the need for more treatment options.

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