Illinois Law Enforcement Leaders: Invest in Early Childhood to Fight Opioid Crisis
Over 100 police chiefs, sheriffs & prosecutors call for use of lawsuit-settlement funding to bolster birth-to-3 services
The opioid crisis has exacted a terrible human toll on Illinois. But the historic settlement of lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors is bringing $760 million in prevention-and-remediation resources to our state — and law enforcement leaders say we must prioritize early childhood efforts.
Specifically, 111 police chiefs, sheriffs and state’s attorneys have joined a public statement calling for investment of some of the settlement proceeds in home-visiting programs. These voluntary services offer “coaching” to new and expecting parents, and research indicates their promising potential for curbing the opioid epidemic.
“As first-responders, law enforcement officials have long been integrally involved in the struggle against the anguish of opioid abuse: saving lives, educating the public, and directing afflicted individuals to proven treatment methods,” write the signers of the statement, all members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. “We have seen firsthand the crisis’ heartbreaking consequences for children. We therefore welcome this opportunity to work with state leaders in focusing additional resources where they can aid the most vulnerable among us.”
Children have been particularly, and tragically, affected by the crisis of opioid abuse and addiction.
FROM THE FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS STATEMENT
The law enforcement leaders point to such programs as Healthy Families Illinois, Parents Too Soon/Maternal Child Home Visiting, Nurse-Family Partnership, and the Prevention Initiative as examples of birth-to-3 priorities to which some lawsuit-settlement funding should be dedicated. They cite a 2018 report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which detailed research on:
- Prevention: High-quality home-visiting programs have been shown to build resilience in young children, helping prevent their exposure to parental drug abuse, abuse and neglect, and other Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that are often correlated with opioid abuse later in life
- Treatment: Such home-visiting efforts can also help addicted parents find sobriety through screenings, education, treatment referrals, and coordination of care.
The lawsuits in question were originally brought by several state’s attorneys and settled with the help of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul; all are also Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members. Settlement terms divide the forthcoming resources among several tracks for funding distribution over the course of several years: local counties and municipalities, the state, and an Illinois Remediation Fund. State officials will establish an advisory council for helping determine prioritization of remediation funding.
This is a “a critically important opportunity for Illinois to greatly strengthen prevention and treatment efforts, with particular attention to communities hardest hit by the opioid crisis,” according to signers of the Fight Crime statement. After all, they add, “Children have been particularly, and tragically, affected by the crisis of opioid abuse and addiction.”
Every 25 minutes, according to the 2018 Fight Crime report, a baby is born in the U.S. suffering from opioid withdrawal, also known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The state’s NAS rate grew by a shocking 64 percent between 2011 and 2017, alone. Plus, research shows that parental drug use and other early adversity in children’s lives can increase the likelihood that children will themselves abuse drugs as adults, perpetuating “a self-defeating cycle for our communities,” said the law enforcement leaders.
The FY23 state budget saw a combined, $1 million (6 percent) increase in the Healthy Families and Parents Too Soon/Maternal Child Home-Visiting services budget lines for the Illinois Department of Human Services — their first state funding increase in about 20 years. Plus, Prevention Initiative services should grow a bit through an increase in their Illinois State Board of Education funding.
Yet, far more is necessary. The state’s home-visiting needs remain significant, as detailed in the Illinois Prenatal to Three/Raising Illinois policy agenda. Utilizing lawsuit-settlement dollars to invest in key, prevention-oriented services supporting the opioid crisis’ youngest victims is an essential element in effectively combating this drug epidemic.