A group of local House Republicans announced a new package of legislation aimed at curbing, treating and preventing the state's heroin problem on Thursday.
The seven bills were announced in the DuPage County Judicial Office facility. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said that the press conference's location was important.
Last year, there were a record 46 fatal heroin overdoses in DuPage County and Durkin called the area "ground zero" in the fight against heroin.
"There's no more greater mission that we have in Springfield as state representatives [than] to try to save lives and protect families, particularly from this epidemic which has grown throughout the state of Illinois – and mainly in this DuPage County region," he said.
Combating the growing heroin problem in the county would take time, partnerships, education and rehabilitation, said Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst.
The bills, which Reboletti said he hoped would be introduced separately to House committees in March, cover a wide range of issues.
First, the plan would create a pilot program in DuPage County to create a secure treatment facility in what was once the county's 40-bed youth home. It would serve as a last chance program for low-level offenders on probation and young individuals who would otherwise go to prison, Reboletti said.
He said the program could cut down the number of nonviolent offenders in the state correctional system and help prevent repeat offenders by treating the addiction.
Reboletti said that funding and administrating were still unclear, but suggested at least part of the funding could come from taxes collected from medicinal marijuana. The 7 percent tax is dedicated to helping prevent crime and recidivism, a focus that Reboletti called a "perfect fit."
Another bill would extend the current RICO laws in the state, which allow for prosecutors to pursue civil claims against individuals, businesses or groups whose actions are a part of a criminal organization. The laws were a "huge asset" and used in last year's bust of 31 people involved in a heroin ring, said State's Attorney Robert Berlin.
The legislation asks lawmakers to extend the sunset date to 2022, five years past its current expiration date.
The package also includes bills that require county health departments to track and report the number of drug overdose deaths to the state, enhance penalties for patients receiving controlled substances from multiple doctors, begin an education initiative to raise awareness on the state's "Good Samaritan" law, commission pamphlets educating holders of opiate prescriptions about their dangers and increase the penalties for selling and using the drug "krokodil," a heroin alternative, to be on par with those for heroin.
Reboletti said that he believed that the legislation focused mainly on rehabilitation and education.
"Instead of putting people into prison we're offering some alternatives here and recognizing that its an addiction, it's not necessarily criminal activity. And if we can beat the addiction portion, recidivism rates are going to go down, we're going to save families, we're going to save lives and we're going to save taxpayer dollars," he said.
The seven proposed bills:
• Pilot program in DuPage County to establish a "last chance" secure substance abuse treatment facility
• Extending RICO statutes to 2022
• Requiring county health departments to track and report the number of drug overdose deaths
• Enhance penalties for patients getting controlled substance prescriptions from multiple doctors
• Education initiative to spread awareness of Illinois "Good Samaritan" law
• Creation of pamphlets to give to those who have opiate prescriptions
• Increase penalties for using and selling the drug "krokodil"