Treat Illinois’ lawmakers first

People are dying. There is a way to save them. Illinois cannot afford to do so because we have loaded down our budget with so many “priorities” and “mandates” that we are paralyzed.

That is how we see Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of the bi-partisan bill to combat the epidemic of heroin deaths in Illinois. The heroin bill provides for wider use of Narcan, the heroin antidote, but it also added all forms of treatment for all alcoholics and drug addicts to the state’s Medicaid plan. Rauner said Illinois frankly doesn’t have the $15 million to treat everyone for everything.

In Madison and St. Clair counties we’ve seen 34 heroin deaths in the first half of 2015. Madison County alone had 28, which is two more than they had in all of 2014. Overdose deaths are preventable because 85 percent happen when someone else is around and can intervene.

Making the Narcan available and widening the pool of people who can administer it to include police, paramedics and school nurses makes sense and is relatively cheap. Rauner supported that.

The problem is forcing Medicaid to cover all methods of alcohol and drug treatment as well as all medications. A state looking at a $5 billion deficit can’t add more to its social safety net when lawmakers have already put so much in that net that it’s shredding and pulling us all down.

The heroin epidemic needs an intervention. Lawmakers are welcome to expand drug and alcohol treatment options after they wean themselves from being all things to all people with other people’s money.