A statewide helpline has been launched to provide immediate assistance for those impacted by addiction to opioids and other substances. The telephone service line, 1-833-2-FINDHELP (1-833-234-6343), will be operated through the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances is funded by federal grant dollars secured by the State of Illinois and can be accessed free of charge.
The helpline is the latest step in Illinois lawmakers’ commitment to tackle the opioid crisis and combat the growing number of overdose deaths related to heroin, other opioids, and synthetics like fentanyl. Earlier this year the Governor unveiled the Opioid Action Plan and signed an executive order creating the Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. The task force, chaired by Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti and IDPH Director Nirav Shah, was charged with building strategies that would help reduce projected opioid overdose-related deaths by one-third within the next three years. It has been holding hearings and gathering testimony from public-health professionals and law enforcement leaders on the dimensions of the crisis.
Another policy established under Executive Order 2017-05 was a Standing Order to make the overdose reversal drug Naloxone (Narcan) available to first responders and members of communities across Illinois, without a prescription.
Data shows that opioid overdoses are dramatically increasing, with 1,946 people killed in Illinois in 2016 up from 1,382 in 2015. In Cook County, there were 970 opioid deaths in 2016, up from 546 in 2015. Opioids are killing more people every year than homicides or motor vehicle accidents. In addition, data from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) estimates that approximately 248,000 Illinois residents need, but do not receive, treatment for illicit drug use.
The helpline will provide a confidential outlet for individuals experiencing opioid use disorders, their families and anyone affected by the disease. It will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by specialists trained in evidence-based approaches to help connect callers with treatment and recovery support services.