Since June 2016, more than $82 million in federal funding has been given to Illinois to address the opioid crisis.
Illinois is a large state that has been hit fairly hard by the opioid epidemic, with many drug-related overdoses and similar problems.
The state’s budget to address the opioid crisis has increased substantially since the issue was recognized in 2015, but there are some who argue it should be increased further.
Others argue extra funding won’t help and more radical change is needed to fully combat the issue.
Illinois has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic in the United States, with at least 2,278 drug-related overdose deaths during 2016. This represents a 44.3 percent rise from the number of overdose-related deaths reported in 2013, with over 80 percent of those deaths attributed to opioid abuse.
This has led many searching for answers, with one argument being that Illinois needs a larger budget for programs directly or indirectly known to help with this issue. The counterargument acknowledges that the opioid crisis is real, but that wiser spending and an overhaul of the approach are needed before throwing more money at the problem.
A large portion of the funding for these programs comes from the federal government. There are broadly two terms that address this type of funding.
There is also the mandatory budget, which funds things like Medicare and Social Security.
While it had was a problem much earlier (some arguing as far back as the 1990s), the opioid epidemic began to be identified as such at a governmental level around the mid-2010s, during the Obama administration. In 2015, President Obama made a hard push to tackle the issue with substantial budget increases for various related programs.
To illustrate the substantial increases seen in budget over the past few years, this was the 2014 Illinois budget for addiction and mental health treatment programs:
There are a few factors important to this discussion beyond just the spending increases. First, funds going to mental health programs and services, while of value, do not necessarily directly combat substance abuse. However, as mental health often plays a key part to combating substance abuse, it is still worth mentioning.
Second, these numbers should be examined alongside any population increase in Illinois to better understand the benefit per capita. Estimates vary, but the population of Illinois in 2014 is generally put around 12.89 million people. In 2018, it decreased to around 12.74 million people.
To simplify, Illinois has seen an over $50 million increase in substance abuse funding, a less significant $7 million increase to mental health funding, and a decrease in population. While a decrease in population is sometimes reflective of other issues, it does mean the average person seeking help for addiction can receive more care per dollar given to the state, all else being equal.
The arguments for an increase in federal funding to programs related to addiction treatment are generally pretty straightforward. It is an established fact that better-funded programs are more effective, provided their methodology is current. This makes sense. If what you are doing is based primarily in modern research, and you receive more money, you can build more facilities, improve existing ones, provide more programs, improve existing programs, and hire and train more staff.
Some argue that drug treatment programs are ineffective, as relapse rates tend to be fairly high. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) presents a counterargument to this point emphasizing that these programs work. Some people just need more continual and adaptive care than others, which is usually how programs that treat other chronic conditions are evaluated. In this context, these programs work.
One more radical argument in relation to this issue is that drug abuse is so expensive to this country (costing $600 billion annually), that making addiction treatment completely free might save money and lives in the long run. While this would initially require a larger increase in funding, it would also slowly require less and less.
Free addiction treatment would encourage people to get treatment earlier, rather than when it becomes absolutely necessary and has already caused extensive damage to the person and society.
Early treatment tends to be cheaper, where treatment for someone who struggles with intense levels of addiction can take a great deal of time and more concentrated care. Early help would also likely head off the spiral into poverty many who struggle with addiction have to face.
Illinois has received tens of millions in federal funding to combat the opioid epidemic within its borders. Besides the added $15 million in funding in 2019, the state will potentially receive an additional $29 million in federal funding in 2020.
The additional funding will go toward substance abuse treatment services, community outreach programs, and the state’s prescription monitoring program (PMP).
With additional funding, it’s expected that these programs will grow more robust and reach more people. As a result, opioid addiction and overdose rates are expected to decline across Illinois.