As Chicago Heroin Escalates, Senator Mattie Hunter Calls on Gov. Pat Quinn to Reverse Drug Treatment Funding Cuts

State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago)

(Chicago, IL) – July 24, 2010. Coming on the heels of Illinois budget cuts to state substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and a new study that reveals Chicago now has the worst heroin problem in the nation, State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) is calling on Governor Pat Quinn to reverse recent funding reductions to drug treatment services.

“To stave off the escalating heroin crisis in Illinois, I am calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to reverse the budget cuts to substance abuse prevention and treatment. These cuts are not the answer, neither clinically nor financially, for the serious challenges facing our constituents and our state,” wrote Hunter in a letter published yesterday in the State Journal-Register.

Hunter was referring to a recent report by Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy that revealed more people in Chicago and its suburbs enter hospital emergency rooms for heroin use than in any other big U.S. city and that heroin-related deaths have escalated in Chicago’s collar counties, as heroin use among young, white suburbanites has exploded.

“As a certified alcohol and drug counselor with 18 years of experience in the field of drug treatment and prevention, I have seen first-hand the effectiveness of prevention and treatment. It works. And it is far less expensive than the emergency room and prison costs that will inevitably result in the wake of this crisis,” said Hunter, Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee.

Hunter’s appeal to Quinn for drug treatment funding restoration is drawing praise from drug prevention and treatment advocates.

“We welcome Senator Hunter’s appeal to Governor Pat Quinn to restore full-funding to substance abuse prevention and treatment services in Illinois, because the 30% budget cuts over the last two years are eroding our ability to protect Illinois communities and Chicago neighborhoods,” said Pamela Rodriguez, President of Chicago-based Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities.

“Senator Hunter’s letter underscores the critical need for our services and reminds the public of the dangers of cutting the addiction prevention and treatment system. We are grateful to Senator Hunter for lending her voice to this issue,” said Sara Moscato Howe, President of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

According to Howe, the Quinn Administration cut funding for drug prevention and treatment by 22% last year and this year sliced another 8% while imposing an additional 3% budget “reserve”, meaning at least 2,500 people will lose treatment this year and approximately 1,000 youth will be cut off from prevention services.

“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,” said Rodriguez.

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