Illinois lawmakers’ attempt to push back on the rise of heroin abuse became law Wednesday as the Senate rejected Gov. Bruce Rauner’s partial veto on a plan to expand Medicaid coverage for treatment and medication.
The Senate voted 44-11 Wednesday to override the Republican’s amendatory veto, which struck a provision to have health coverage for the poor include the popular treatment drug methadone and the overdose antidote called Narcan. Rauner pointed out in August that Medicaid already covers several types of heroin medication.
But Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat who sponsored the plan, said it would save money when it came to things like emergency room visits.
“It will cost the taxpayers money, but it will save money in the long run,” Kotowski said.
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Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, who previously served as Madison County’s prosecutor, also supported the legislation.
“As a former state’s attorney, I know the importance of punishing the dealer and treating the addicted,” Haine said. “This law will address the significant increase in heroin- and opioid-related deaths and overdoses that has cost Illinois $4 billion. It will help save lives and make sure addicts receive the treatment they need. This override was a necessary step in the effective handling of a statewide issue. ”
The law, which takes effect immediately, requires emergency authorities and school nurses to carry and administer Narcan, increase education on drug abuse for schoolchildren and anyone taking prescription opioids, provide more treatment options and less jail time for users.
The legislation had virtually unanimous support in an otherwise deeply divided General Assembly in May, and even after months of partisan rancor over a state budget agreement, the House voted 105-5 last week to override the veto.
Experts say the measure is the first attempt to link the heroin epidemic to prescription drugs, because many move from prescription opioid painkillers to heroin, which is cheaper and more widely available.
Rauner’s office has said the state provides methadone treatment in 5,400 licensed placements available through the Department of Human Services, and contended that Medicaid covers Narcan. The office also said that the law requires Medicaid coverage to exceed private insurance benefits and virtually eliminate cost controls, which would hamper the fiscally strapped state.
Haine said the bill includes the following provisions:
▪ Requires doctors and pharmacies to document when narcotics have been prescribed
▪ Requires the State Board of Education to create a heroin and opioid drug-prevention program for schools
▪ Creates a statewide medication take-back program
▪ Allows pharmacists to dispense life-saving Narcan to prevent heroin overdoses
▪ Increases penalties for fraudulently acquiring a controlled substance
▪ Removes the “one and done” rule for non-violent drug offenders to attend drug court, which has been found more effective at treating drug addicts
How they voted
Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Didn’t vote
Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton: Yes
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon: No
Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville: No