Lack of local drug treatment alarms officials

October 19, 2018

KANKAKEE — Local officials had a message for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin on Wednesday: Access to drug addiction treatment in the community is hard to come by.

The Democratic senator held a meeting at Presence St. Mary’s Hospital to hear local concerns about the opioid crisis, among other issues.

“Access to treatment is very limited. There is a waiting list. It could be six weeks. By that time, people could have relapsed. We don’t have detox in this area, which is a need, I believe,” said Mary Johnson-Meli, a local substance abuse counselor.

Kankakee County Coroner Bob Gessner noted the 56 overdoses in 2017.

“That has hit me hard in the coroner’s office. It cost me an extra $84,000 for autopsies, just with opioids,” Gessner said. “Please help us.”

Durbin said a bill dealing with the opioid crisis may provide resources.

Natasha Heideman, a surgical intensive care nurse at Presence, said many patients seem motivated to kick their drug habits, but encounter a lack of treatment.

“For us, it’s frustrating. We want to believe them. They seem willing to kick the habit, then you see them back weeks later,” she said.

Without treatment available, she said, “you feel like you are sending them to the wolves” when releasing them.

Durbin also was in Kankakee to promote a bill that would require pharmaceutical companies to disclose the prices of their products.

The average American, he said, sees nine pharmaceutical ads a day. One major advertised drug costs $5,800 a month. “They don’t tell us that,” Durbin said.

Big pharmaceutical companies may think twice about raising prices if they must disclose them, he said.

Durbin said he is already finding support for the bill from Republican senators as well as the Trump administration. He described prescription drugs as the “biggest driver” in the increase in health insurance premiums.