Cong. Danny Davis (D-7th) is calling on the state, local and federal governments to provide financial assistance to fight the recent rash of drug-related deaths connected to tainted heroin sold on the streets.
At a press conference Monday, Davis, along with city and state health officials, called for a “more aggressive program” for treatment on demand. Davis said the recent number of deaths in Cook County associated with heroin laced with fentanyl, a potent prescription pain killer, is cause for concern and increased awareness.
“The reality is that there are these unscrupulous drug profiteers who will do what they can to make as much money as they can peddling bad dope,” he said afterward. Davis was joined by officials from the Chicago Department of Health, John Stroger Hospital, and community health experts. “This press conference was an emergency call for help,” he added.
Religious and elected officials were also in attendance at Monday’s press conference, which took place at Davis’ West Side office, 3333 W. Arthington.
Heroin, a powerful painkiller, produces, among other effects, euphoria, and is known to lead to addiction and physically stressful withdrawal symptoms. Fentanyl, a synthetic drug, is more than 80 times more powerful than morphine. The combination of the two, health experts say, can cause fatal overdoses in users.
More than 70 deaths in Cook County alone have been recorded in recent months. City health officials estimate victim’s ages ranging from 17-70 with cases reported on the South and West Sides.
Heroin/fentanyl-related deaths have been reported in other states as well, including Philadelphia, Delaware and Ohio. More than 200 have been reported nationwide. In Detroit, health officials reported as many as 41 deaths in an eight-day span in May. At around the same time in New Jersey, health officials there confirmed 10 deaths related to heroin/fentanyl usage. Health officials nationwide have also reported hundreds of cases involving drug users hospitalized due to bad drugs.
Davis said the recent crisis signals a greater need for treatment-on-demand services. On Monday he asked state, federal and local governments to come up with $4 million to treat 600 methadone addicts currently awaiting treatment in Cook County.
“The substance abuse community has come together to rally around the call for emergency resources to address the problem,” he said. “It’s a serious hue and cry to try to come up with a way to prevent people from killing themselves with bad dope.”
Chicago police recently have made several arrests of drug dealers suspected of selling the lethal combination within the last few months. According to news accounts, state and federal law enforcement officials have begun investigating whether the fentanyl drug is being manufactured in illegal labs as far away as Mexico and smuggled into the United States.
Davis said the crisis came up last week in Washington D.C. during a conference with Illinois elected officials and Mayor Daley indicated that the city was reviewing how it provides treatment to addicts. Davis added that the best way to stop any deaths related to drug use was through prevention efforts.
“I think substance abuse is one of the major problems facing our country,” he said. “In order to get to the problem, you have to get to the root of the problem. What causes a person to become a drug user? We have to tackle all of these issues in our society.”