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13 Investigates: Is Illinois’s opioid helpline making a difference?

Last December, Governor Bruce Rauner signed off on a Opioid Helpline for the state.  But 13 News Investigates took a deeper look to see if people are using it, and what impact it’s making across Illinois and here in the stateline. 

It’s been six months since the hotline launched.  13 News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Illinois Department of Human Services to see how many time the line has been used. 

As of May 6th 3,084 people called the helpline statewide.  A month by month breakdown shows 648 people called in December, 513 in January, 441 in February, 638 in March, and the biggest number of 706 in April. 

"We’re really happy with how the helpline has rolled out," says IDHS Director of Substance Use Prevention & Recovery Danielle Kirby.  "We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback at this point it’s been the first launch. A lot of those calls have been in Winnebago County."

The data shows Winnebago County has the third most calls of any county in the state.  Through the end of April there were 63 calls to the hotline, only behind 81 in Dupage County and 755 in Cook County. 

The biggest question posed by 13 Investigates was if these calls were leading to treatment.  According to the data, 1,701 people who called the hotline were connected to a treatment program. 

"It’s difficult what the result is," says Kirby.  "We do know that people are calling the line and that they’re receiving referrals. Whether or not people are actually going to treatment is something that we do want to be able to  tell, but we don’t have that set up quite yet, that’s sort of a phase two as far as what we’ll be doing."

The department says something else to keep in mind, not everyone who calls the hotline has a substance disorder themselves, but could be looking for help for a loved one. Rosecrance, which provides a substantial amount of treatment to addicts in our area, says it doesn’t keep tabs on the number of referrals it gets from this specific hotline.  However, Rosecrance says it’s received several dozens of calls from various helplines this year, which is double what it saw last year. 

Also new in the stateline, billboards with the hotline number on them are popping up all over.  Right now there’s 10 in Winnebago County.  A reminder for people that the next time they feel like using, there’s someone there to help. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder call 1-833-2FINDHELP. 

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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