The United States is in the middle of the deadliest drug crisis in our history. Fueled by the growing opioid epidemic, drug overdoses have now become the leading cause of death nationwide for people under the age of 50. In Illinois, opioid overdoses have killed nearly 11,000 people since 2008. Just last year, nearly 2,000 people died of overdoses—almost twice the number of fatal car accidents. Beyond these deaths are thousands of emergency department visits, hospital stays, as well as the pain suffered by individuals, families, and communities. The opioid epidemic is the most significant public health and public safety crisis facing Illinois.
The Illinois Opioid Action Plan presents the State of Illinois’ collective call to action. The opioid crisis affects everyone in the state in some way. Its victims are of all ages, races, and walks of life. The causes of the epidemic are complex, and state government must work with everyone—health care providers, local agencies, law enforcement, community groups, individual citizens, and national partners—toward a solution.
The focus of our efforts is to save lives. At the current rate, the opioid epidemic will claim the lives of more than 2,700 Illinoisans in 2020. We must take action to halt this explosive growth. Our goal is to reduce the number of projected deaths in 2020 by a third.
This Plan focuses on efforts falling into three pillars, six main priorities, and nine evidence-based strategies. The pillars are:
- Prevention: preventing the further spread of the opioid crisis
- Treatment and Recovery: providing evidence-based treatment and recovery services to Illinois residents with opioid use disorder (OUD), and
- Response: averting overdose deaths.
Unfortunately, the crisis will get worse before it gets better. Dangerous synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are responsible for an increasing number of deaths. These substances can be thousands of times more poisonous than heroin, adding fuel to the fire.
This Action Plan is among the first steps in moving toward our goal. It is the strategic framework for the work ahead of us and outlines what we need to do to address the crisis and why we need to do it. The next steps will involve building the “how”—the specific tactics needed to implement our strategies and achieve our goal.