Poll: 69% Back Illinois Law Pushing Drug Treatment over Arrest

(Grayslake, IL) – A new bipartisan law that authorizes local police departments and community partners to develop local strategies to fight the Illinois opioid crisis has the overwhelming backing of Illinois voters, according to a recent poll.

On August 22, 2018, Governor Rauner signed legislation, Senate Bill 3023, that encourages local law enforcement to “deflect” from criminal arrest individuals who have overdosed or who have substance use problems, directing them instead into addiction treatment.

Voters like it.

An October 29-30, 2018, statewide poll of likely Illinois voters by Illinois Public Opinion, Inc. found that 69.03% supported the measure approved by Rauner while only 14.84% opposed it. And 16.13% were undecided.

The leader of one of the state’s top criminal justice advocacy groups, which spearheaded the passage of the law, said that the poll showed that Illinois voters “embrace” a new approach to criminal justice when it comes to addressing the heroin and opioid epidemic.

“Traditionally, local police have had two choices when faced with someone who they believe may have a substance use disorder–to arrest or to not arrest, and now voters enthusiastically embrace the third choice encouraged by the new law, a drug treatment option,” said Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) President Pam Rodriguez. “With the opioid crisis raging across the state, the new deflection law provides the third option, to connect people with community-based substance use treatment services that address their underlying substance use problems, an approach strongly endorsed by Illinois public opinion.”

The number of Illinois overdose deaths from all opioids nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017, from 1,072 to 2,110.

The “Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act,” which was sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and State Senator Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) and in the House by State Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), creates guidelines to develop partnerships between law enforcement, substance use treatment providers, and community members.

The bill is also an initiative of the Village of Mundelein’s police chief, Eric Guenther, and the City of Dixon’s former police chief and current city manager, Danny Langloss, whose communities have pioneered deflection programs.

“These poll results reveal that common sense criminal justice reform will be rewarded by public support,” said Rodriguez. “The new legislature and the new governor, J.B. Pritzker, should be encouraged by public opinion and continue forward on a criminal justice reform path.”

The automated survey, which contacted 497 likely voters by both landlines and cellphones, had a +/- 4.4% margin of error.

The law goes into force on January 1, 2019.

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