In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie is renewing her call for bipartisan cooperation to address the opioid epidemic impacting communities all across Illinois and highlighting recent progress she led that will help prevent fentanyl-related deaths.

“Every death resulting from fentanyl poisoning or opioid abuse is a death that could be prevented,” said McCombie. “This crisis is affecting every community across our state and devastating families in the process. It is a top priority for me to find a solution, one that can prevent overdoses and keep our neighborhoods and our families safe.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 70,000 people in the U.S. died from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, in 2021. Overall, 106,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021 in the U.S.

In response to the growing prevalence of fentanyl poisoning in Illinois, McCombie passed legislation this year, House Bill 3203, to allow pharmacists and retail stores to sell potentially life-saving fentanyl test strips over the counter. As fentanyl cannot be smelled or tasted, it is impossible to determine if drugs contain the powerful opioid without the use of test strips. The test strips will be able to identify if fentanyl is present in any drug, which is essential considering a dose of only two milligrams can have fatal consequences. McCombie’s bill was signed into law in July.

In an annual effort to help prevent opioid abuse, McCombie hosts Prescription Drug Drop off events throughout Northwest Illinois in partnership with local Sheriff’s Departments. In April, McCombie hosted events in German Valley, Savanna, and Elizabeth; collecting hundreds of pounds of prescriptions drugs to reduce the risk of opioid abuse and fentanyl poisoning; and ensure unneeded medications are safely disposed of.

“Saving lives from fentanyl poisoning and opioid abuse takes all of us, not just elected officials but concerned citizens, neighbors, and family members,” continued McCombie. “The flow of illegal fentanyl across the U.S. southern border and into Illinois must be stopped to address this epidemic and save lives. Every tool must be made available to law enforcement, first responders, and educators to help end this crisis and keep our young people safe from fentanyl’s lethal consequences.”

Earlier this summer, McCombie met with Illinois law enforcement officials at the U.S. – Mexico border to get a first-hand account of how fentanyl is making its way to Illinois and to help them develop strategies to combat the crisis.