State of Affairs: Breaking Down the Heroin Crisis Act

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Heroin use continues to be a growing problem across the United States. When government officials began cracking down on prescription drug abuse, users turned to heroin for a cheaper and longer-lasting high.

The Rise of Heroin

But as any former heroin user will tell you, use turns into addiction and quickly becomes a matter of maintenance to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms. It’s a vicious cycle.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder reported last year that heroin overdose deaths increased by 45 percent between 2006 and 2010, leading him to call the issue an “urgent public health crisis.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration also confirmed last week that the drug has made a “roaring comeback” in New York, while other states have also openly struggled with similar problems.

Taking Legal Action

HeroinIllinois could soon be tackling this issue head-on with House Bill 1, which was unanimously approved last month by the House and now heads to the state Senate for a vote this weekend.

The approximately $15 million bill would expand drug courts across the state of Illinois. These courts are designed to make sure that first-time offenders can be included. This bill calls for the expansion of Medicare, specifically to cover rehab stays and provide Naloxone to first responders who can’t afford it.

The state would also run and administer prescription disposal services for expired and unused medications.

This bill calls for the expansion of Medicare, specifically to cover rehab stays and provide Naloxone to first responders who can’t afford it.

The Opposition

However, not everyone is on board with the Illinois bill. Urbana drug court judge Jeffrey Ford said that while he agrees that heroin use is a growing issue that needs to be addressed, he believes that the bill would overwhelm drug courts and decrease their benefits.

“Because there are only 68 drug courts in the state, not every county has access to such a program,” he wrote. “By requiring that every first offender be evaluated, the existing drug courts would have to use their precious resources to assess individuals not associated with their county’s justice system.”

The News in Jersey

Other states are also adopting a similar approach as Illinois to addressing the crisis. One of those states is New Jersey.
State Senator Joseph Vitale introduced a package last September that included several pieces of drug-related legislation that had previously passed in the Assembly and Senate. Among Vitale’s propositions are:

  • A call to improve addiction services for prison inmates
  • Extending immunity to emergency responders who dispense Naloxone
  • Requiring some colleges to have sober living facilities

“New Jersey is home of some of the most pure and least expensive heroin in the country and when ingested it can have catastrophic effects on the user, causing extreme addiction or even death,” said Vitale.

“The State Legislature has taken on the task of reversing this epidemic through prevention options that educate our residents of the dangers of both prescription drug and heroin abuse and through effective treatment options that assist users in recovering from their addictions.”

Navigating the Speed Bumps

Some states grappling with heroin have failed to take action, though.

Kentucky is an example of legal failures in states with a high heroin abuse rate. Lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to enable first-responders to possess and administer Naloxone, but the House declined to vote on the bill by the necessary deadline.

Despite the unwillingness of some states to take initiative on this issue, the fact that many are is a promising sign. By introducing laws that increase treatment options and access to life-saving overdose antidotes, countless lives can be saved each year and provide the opportunity for these addicts to become sober, productive citizens.

Additional Reading: Death After Treatment for Heroin Dependence

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