Drug overdose is a nationwide epidemic that claims the lives of over 43,000 Americans every year. Illinois, like many states, has recently experienced a marked increase in both prescription opioid and heroin use, and a recent report from Roosevelt University found that Chicago ranked first in the nation in the number of emergency department mentions for heroin, ahead of both Boston and New York. Over a three-year span, Illinois witnessed at least 900 heroin overdose deaths.
Opioid overdose is reversible through the timely administration of naloxone, a medication that blocks the effects of opioids in the brain, and the provision of other emergency care as necessary. Unfortunately, laws passed for other purposes often limit access to naloxone, making it difficult for those likely to be in a position to aid an overdose victim to access the medication. Existing law can also discourage people who witness an overdose from calling for help. As one step toward reducing the unprecedented increase in preventable overdose deaths in the United States, the majority of states have amended their laws to increase access to this life-saving medication.
Illinois first joined this trend in 2010 when it passed legislation establishing a Drug Overdose Prevention Program, which increased access to naloxone through a variety of mechanisms. In 2012, it took additional steps to increase emergency care for overdose victims by passing the Emergency Medical Services Access Law (EMSA), which provides limited protection from certain controlled substance offenses to a person who seeks medical assistance in good faith for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose, as well as the overdose victim. On September 9, 2015, the Illinois General Assembly overwhelmingly passed Lali’s Law, a comprehensive reform bill that aims to combat the opioid epidemic.
This fact sheet provides information on each of these laws.