(The Center Square) – With state lawmakers in Springfield for veto session and no vetoes from the governor to deal with, some are urging action to address the scourge of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is making its way into street drugs and is becoming a leading cause of death among young adults.
According to research from Families Against Fentanyl, overdose deaths from synthetic opioids is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45. Illinois has the eighth highest total number of fentanyl deaths in that report, a total of 9,206 since 2015, an increase of 778%.
Illinois Senate Republicans say the number of synthetic opioid deaths in the state have increased from 87 in 2013 to 2,672 in 2021.
The Illinois Department of Public Heath Statewide Semiannual Opioid Report for May showed 3,013 opioid overdose deaths in Illinois for 2021, an increase of 35.8% from 2019 and nearly three times as many as in 2013.
State Sen. Sally Turner, R-Beason, said that’s staggering and lawmakers have to act.
“I believe the General Assembly should use the next two weeks to seriously consider legislation that I filed to help combat the ongoing fentanyl poisoning and synthetic opioid epidemic that’s already claiming thousands of lives in Illinois,” Turner said.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, joined Turner and McLean County State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds for a news conference in Springfield Tuesday and said the problem of overdose deaths across the country is reaching the equivalent of a commercial airliner crash killing everyone on board every day.
“If that scenario, god forbid, happened, it would be on national news every single day, top story for the next month,” Rezin said. “But yet, we have these fentanyl poisoning deaths across the country in the same number and we hear nothing about it.”
Rezin acknowledged there are stories below the fold, but the issue needs to be more prominent and lawmakers should act.
Turner’s Senate Bill 4221 would enhance penalties for a variety of fentanyl offenses. Among the proposals are to “create a new Class X felony requiring nine to 40 years in prison for unlawfully selling or dispensing any scheduled drug, like Adderall or Vicodin, that contains a detectable amount of fentanyl.”
“It is our impassioned hope that this will address the overwhelming increase of overdosing and dying from fake pills that are made to look like prescription opioids or stimulants,” Turner said.
The measure would also make it a Class 1 felony for anyone using an electronic communications device in the furtherance of controlled substance trafficking that contains any amount of fentanyl.
Turner’s bill remains in committee. It’s unclear if the Democratic majority would advance any measures bringing about penalty enhancements.
A separate bill that advanced out of the Illinois House last year by majority Democrats would relax penalties for the possession of certain illicit drugs, including fentanyl. The measure has stalled in the Senate.
Lawmakers are in veto session Tuesday and Wednesday this week and are scheduled for three days the week after Thanksgiving. The two-year term of this General Assembly ends mid-January before the beginning of the new two-year term where lawmakers start legislation from scratch.