(The Center Square) – State legislators and advocates are urging more awareness and resources to address the dangers of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent and can harm someone just by touch. The precursors to the drug originated in China and were smuggled across the United States’ southern border with Mexico.
Records from the Illinois Department of Health show that Illinois had 3,013 fentanyl-related deaths in 2021 alone, a 35.8% increase from 2019 and almost three times the number from 2013.
Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, and Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, were joined by community groups in the capital on Thursday to raise awareness about the drug.
“Before there was a COVID pandemic, there was an epidemic and pandemic of heroin and fentanyl overdoses across the state,” Ford said. “Today we’re here to make sure we’re sounding the alarm and letting everyone know there is help.” are.”
Ford talked about it House bill 110or the Safer Consumption Services Act, which failed to pass this year.
Mayfield said help is there if the state can provide the funding.
“Until we start funding these programs to give them the support they need, not only are we going to have these drug overdoses that are sweeping our country far, but we’re going to continue to have violence in our communities,” Mayfield said.
Ford talked about tens of millions of dollars in settlements with opioid manufacturers and retailers that states like Illinois are receiving.
“We have to make sure the money is spent and make sure everyone has access to Narcan, make sure everyone has access to medical treatment services so they can live normal lives and not die from street drugs,” Ford said.
Last month, several Republican senators advocated tougher penalties against those who sell fentanyl.
Senate Act 4221 would increase penalties for a variety of fentanyl offenses. Proposals include creating “a new Class X crime requiring nine to 40 years in prison for the unlawful sale or dispensing of any proposed drug, such as Adderall or Vicodin, that contains a detectable amount of fentanyl.”
“It is our fervent hope that this will reverse the overwhelming increase in overdoses and deaths from counterfeit pills that look like prescription opioids or stimulants,” said Sen. Sally Turner, R-Beason. said Last month.
Ford also proposed severe penalties for those who sold the drugs.
“We need to make sure we increase the penalties for cartels and stop the flow of drugs entering these neighborhoods,” Ford said.