(Chicago, IL) — That heroin abuse has worsened in the Chicago area over the last decade (“Heroin abuse surging in Chicago and its suburbs,” Sun-Times, June 28) surprises none of us in the drug treatment and criminal justice field, but it infuriates us because our warnings have been greeted by repeated state budget cuts.
As recently as April 25, 2010, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) and the Haymarket Center hosted a standing-room only town hall meeting in Chicago focusing on the heroin crisis bearing down on our communities.
At the forum, former Chicago Police Captain John Roberts silenced attendees as he recounted the death of his 19-year-old son from a heroin overdose in their suburban neighborhood only months before, illustrating that heroin’s grip recognizes no social or geographic boundaries.
Forums like ours, in which local residents called on state lawmakers and Governor Pat Quinn to spare drug treatment from budget cuts in order to fight the exploding heroin crisis, were replicated throughout the state during the spring.
Funding for drug prevention and treatment, already cut 22% last year, was, however, cut another 8% this year, meaning that even more youth—approximately 1,000 youth, according to an estimate by the Illinois Alcohol and Drug Dependence Association, who are in the eye of the heroin hurricane—lose important drug prevention and treatment services.
Decreasing treatment only fuels the Illinois heroin scourge.
People with untreated addictions often cycle back and forth between emergency rooms and criminal justice systems. State funding reductions mean an estimated 1,390 fewer people benefit from TASC’s effective and cost-efficient treatment alternatives.
Individuals who receive TASC services successfully complete treatment at twice the rate of all criminal justice-referred clients in Illinois and have significantly lower rates of re-offending. Funding cuts and payment delays erode such successes and will result in increased criminal justice costs, health care costs, and the irreparable cost of even more lives lost.
Pamela F. Rodriguez, President