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Lawmaker Wants Better Tracking Of Opioid Deaths


Opioid deaths nearly doubled in Sangamon County last year, with heroin as the leading cause in 20 of the 42 opioid-related deaths, according to data retrieved from the county coroner’s office.

A proposal in the Illinois House would standardize how overdoses are reported across the state. State Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport, believes it will help combat the growing opioid epidemic by providing accurate information to policymakers.

“We can [then] look at the crisis with opioids and come up with an evidence-based model,” Connor said.

The measure would require hospitals and coroners across the state to report the age, gender, race and, if possible, county of residence of the person who overdosed to the Illinois Department of Public Health and the General Assembly. These reports would also include those who experienced an opioid overdose and lived.

“Being able to map out that information can really tell you where best to put your resources,” said Connor. “And that's really the key, is figuring out how to allocate resources based on what is occurring and the trends that are occurring in the data.”

Illinois saw nearly 2,000 opioid deaths across the state in 2016, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Connor noted many counties already report a lot of this information, but the bill would standardize reporting throughout Illinois.

That’s the case in Sangamon County, where Coroner Cinda Edwards said she uses an electronic system to track causes of death. The information that would be required in the bill is already put into the state's computerized death certificate system, so pulling the data would not prove too difficult in Sangamon, where opioid-related death have averaged 30 per year over the past 6 years.

But reporting the data could add an extra step for coroners in more populous counties or where they don’t the same electronic resources, she said.

Mary works as an intern for NPR Illinois' Illinois Issues. She is currently a student in the Public Affairs Reporting master's degree program at the University of Illinois Springfield and will graduate in May 2018. Prior to coming to Springfield, Mary worked as the Editorial Intern at the Chicago Sun-Times. She obtained her bachelor's degree in journalism from Illinois State University where she served as the school newspaper's news editor and editorial writer. Mary is from Naperville, Ill., and attended Wheaton Warrenville South High School.
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