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West Side Lawmakers Hold Emergency Meeting On Opioid Epidemic In Wake Of Heroin Overdoses

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A group of lawmakers held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss ways to fight the ongoing opioid crisis, nearly two weeks after at least 20 people overdosed on heroin on the West Side.

The lawmakers said opioid addiction is nothing short of an epidemic, and urgent action is needed.

The opioid epidemic was especially devastating last month, when three people died and 17 others went to the hospital, after overdosing on a batch of heroin laced with fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin. Two men were arrested last week, and while Anthony Robinson and Douglas Tate were not charged directly in the overdoses, police said they might be connected to the case.

Davis and Ford led a discussion with dozens of lawmakers on Monday at the Salvation Army Freedom Center on the West Side.

Ford said their goal is to ensure the community understands that Narcan, which can help reverse opioid overdoses, is readily available. That means handing out a Narcan kit to those dealing with heroin addiction, or to their family.

"Narcan is a life saver, and people should know about it. If there's someone in their life that's addicted to a substance, they should definitely know about it, and that's our goal right now. It's very difficult to eliminate the addiction, but we can make sure that we support people in a good way so that we can save lives," Ford said.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who has faced criticism from some people in his ward who say he isn't doing enough to address the heroin crisis, has defended his record, and said it's a citywide problem, not just a West Side issue.

"We really have to continue to try to do everything we can to keep folks off of drugs. Of course we need to continue to work with the police to stop people from selling drugs," Burnett said.

Lawmakers also are looking into forms of substance abuse help for those dealing with heroin addiction.


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