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Illinois House committee advances bill aimed to address opioid addiction


SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Many people may know someone or have a family member that is struggling with addiction or opioid use.

Now, Illinois House lawmakers are looking to take action to help prevent more people from losing their life. House Bill 3445 would provide protection from prosecution to people seeking medical attention for an opioid overdose.

Bill sponsor Janet Yang Rohr (D-Naperville) explained her proposal will bring attention to the on-going opioid epidemic. She said it could also make clear what it means to cooperate with authorities. Finally, it ensures someone's probation sentence wouldn't be revoked if they stayed with someone overdosing to get help.

Yang Rohr said she filed the bill after a 25-year-old man from her district tragically overdosed. In this case, she feels this legislation could've saved Alex Green's life.

"In situations like this, had someone remained on the scene and was not afraid of the legal consequences to call emergency medical services, individuals like Alex could be alive today," said Yang Rohr.

Alex's father, Bill Green, told committee members this bill could have prevented his son from dying. A friend dropped Alex off at a gas station and fled the scene.

"If that person had actually gone into the gas station and said, 'my friend is overdosing' he might still be here today, but that didn't happen," Green said through tears. "I ask you please make this a law."

Changing the outcome

Chair Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) emphasized if people felt brave enough to speak up without getting in trouble, the outcomes could be different, especially for those struggling.

"I think what Representative Yang Rohr is trying to do is take away the fear that someone who is with someone who is overdosing has a possibility of being prosecuted for being in trouble," said Conroy.

Rep. Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich) had questions regarding the amount of people at the scene of the overdose. He asked what the policy would be for the person who called emergency services.

"The bill makes clear that the person reporting is cooperating with authorities, that they're providing their name, their contact information, they're remaining on the scene," said Yang Rohr. "I think that language helped mitigate those worries."

Bipartisan support

Having support from both Democrats and Republicans, committee members gave ideas of their own that could help the bill.

Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) suggested the state needs to provide more education on issues like this. She explained it's another way people would be able to save lives. Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Collinsville) agreed with Flowers and said schools should incorporate these ideas.

"I think we could modernize our curriculum in our schools to make sure that the explanation of laws like this are clear," said Stuart. "Obviously, we're not encouraging our students to get involved in drug use, but let them know that if they find themselves in that situation and they're worried for the life of one of their friends, call someone to help and stay there to get them the help they need."

Rep. Dave Severin (R-Marion) also echoed Stuart's statement and said schools could do more to implement this.

"This is something that can simply be discussed in grade school, jr. high, high school," said Severin. "If you see a friend in need, you make the call."

Yang Rohr explained neighboring states like Wisconsin and Minnesota have adopted similar legislation and had positive results. In fact, she stressed that in 2018 alone, the CDC reported nearly 15,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States.

The measure advanced out of the House Mental Health and Addiction Committee on a bipartisan vote. Now, the proposal moves to the House floor for consideration.

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Ali Rasper

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