For many people on social media, November is a time when they like to count and share the things that they are thankful for. While I have many thanks to give in my personal life, there are also several items that, even in these chaotic times, we can all be thankful about in our area and beyond.
The first one that I’d like to share is my appreciation for the actions that are being taken at many levels of civic leadership to combat the opioid crisis that has become a true threat to many individuals as well as to our local communities, our state, and our nation. The president has directed his health secretary to name the opioid crisis as a public health emergency and has called for coordinated national efforts to stem the tide of deaths attributed to opioid use and abuse (64,000 in 2016).
At the state level, the governor issued an Opioid Action Plan in September of this year, acknowledging in that report that in Illinois, “opioid overdoses have killed nearly 11,000 people since 2008” with nearly 1900 of those deaths coming in 2016 alone – almost two times the number killed by car accidents. Illinois’ plan focuses on three pillars: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, and Response. It is important that we move past just punishing those in the grip of this horrific disease and work on reducing the availability of these potent drugs and the successful treatment of those already trapped.
Locally, both DuPage and Will Counties have been subject to increasing deaths in the epidemic, but both counties are ramping up their efforts to combat it. In DuPage, Illinois’ two senators announced this fall that, as part of a four-year program, funds from the US Department of Health and Human Services would be made available to train first responders to administer Narcan, which can save the life of someone suffering from a heroin overdose, as well as helping supply the antidote. Will County is in the second year of a five-year state grant program that aims to distribute the same treatment as well as providing training for its use, not only to first responders but to others who are on the front lines of dealing with this crisis.
Ultimate thanks will come when we can say that this epidemic is behind us. While that may be a long way off, it is closer because of the coordinated efforts at all levels of government – something we can all be thankful for today.

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