Illinois Business and Retired Military Leaders Support Early Childhood Investments to Fight Opioid Crisis
ReadyNation and Mission: Readiness members urge using lawsuit settlement funds to strengthen birth-to-3 services
Over the past year, Illinois law enforcement leaders have called upon state decisionmakers to strengthen an important tool for opioid prevention and remediation: research-proven early childhood initiatives. Now, business executives and military leaders are joining them in focusing on an important new revenue source for this approach — and arguing from the standpoint of what’s good for our workforce and armed forces, each of which have been set back by the drug epidemic.
The opioid crisis has wreaked havoc in Illinois: In 2021, 3,000 Illinoisans lost their lives to overdoses. Between 2011 to 2017, Illinois’ Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) rate grew 64% among children born with exposure to drugs. Fortunately, there is a prime opportunity to invest in services that treat and prevent drug abuse and help the children and families most affected by this crisis. Hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement funding, resulting from lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors of opioids, should be used, in part, to invest in high-quality home-visiting programs and Early Intervention services.
Home-visiting programs have been shown to make a positive difference by offering useful “coaching” for the parents of infants and toddlers, and provide parents with screenings, treatment referrals, and coordination of care. These services have been found to reduce Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs), such as parental drug abuse, which in turn reduces the likelihood that affected children abuse drugs later in life. Similarly, Early Intervention services provide therapies for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities, including those experienced as a result of NAS.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Illinois — a member organization composed of chiefs of police, sheriffs, and state’s attorneys — has long been at the forefront of calling for investments in early childhood programs to address the opioid crisis. In 2018, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a report detailing the prevention-focused importance of high-quality home-visiting programs. Upon learning about the forthcoming settlement money, the law enforcement leaders were quick to put forth a statement in April of 2022, urging that some of the incoming funds be used to boost crucial birth-to-3 services provided by Healthy Families America, Nurse Family Partnership, BabyTALK, and Parents As Teachers.
However, the impact of the opioid crisis goes beyond the concerns of law enforcement, and reaches into the state’s workforce and our country’s military readiness. In the fall of 2022, ReadyNation, Illinois, and Mission: Readiness, Illinois, each put forth statements echoing Fight Crime: Invest in Kids’ message that some portion of the settlement funds should be directed towards home-visiting and Early Intervention programs.
As business leaders across employment sectors … we have witnessed the tragic effects that opioid abuse and addiction have had on the children and families of our communities.
From the ReadyNation Statement
The business leader members of ReadyNation, Illinois, are deeply concerned with the effects the opioid crisis has had on the economy and workforce. A 2020 U.S. Department of Labor report found that 75% of employers feel that their workplace has been impacted by opioid-related issues. Employer concerns include difficulty finding qualified workers who can pass drug screens and rising health care costs, as well as increased absenteeism and reduced productivity. There are additional safety concerns because opioid use can contribute to workplace injuries.
Similarly, the crisis has harshly impacted the nation’s military readiness. Startlingly, 77% of youth aged 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service, and the U.S. Department of Defense reports that 30% of these ineligibilities are due to drug abuse. Thus, the retired military leaders of Mission: Readiness, Illinois hold that decreasing ACEs — and the likelihood that children will go on to use drugs later in life — is crucial for our national security.
We must do better by our children, families, and our nation by increasing the availability of high-quality programs that positively impact the communities and families most affected by the opioid crisis.
From the Mission: Readiness statement
Investing in high-quality home-visiting programs and Early Intervention services is a positive way to help our state’s youngest who have been hurt by the opioid crisis, and the opioid settlement money provides an opportunity to do just that. Addressing and avoiding future ACEs through these services can have a positive impact on the lives of children and families, and therefore the workforce and national security.