U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and other senators in a letter this week asked the federal Health and Human Services Department for more help in battling what they say is an epidemic of heroin use.
Durbin and 20 other Democrats joined the letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. They want the department to prioritize programs to reduce deaths from heroin and other opioid overdoses.
They also want expanded access to naloxone. It's a medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose from heroin and other drugs such as prescription painkillers.
The senators said that despite naloxone's life-saving capabilities, its use in preventing overdoses isn't widespread. They're calling on the department to draft a plan to help communities provide naloxone to first responders and medical facilities.
More than 900 people have died from heroin overdoses in Illinois in the last three years. In Will County in 2000 there were just 5 cases of accidental heroin overdose deaths. By 2012 the number had skyrocketed to 46. The Will County Coronor's web site keeps updated overdose statistics.