Report: 86 percent of Chicago’s West Side believes Overdose Prevention Site would help community

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A new report from the Illinois Department of Human Services has found that residents in Chicago’s West Side feel that an Overdose Prevention Site would benefit their communities.

As part of a report on the Overdose Prevention Site Community Engagement Project, the IDHS, the Prevention Partnership/West Side Heroin/Opioid Task Force, and Advocate for Human Potential released the results of their work in the community to get community buy-in for building an OPS in their neighborhoods.

Overdose Prevention Sites provide a facility where people who have already obtained drugs can come to and use them under the supervision of trained staff. The facilities provide a safe, clean place to use drugs, as well as a place where staff can step in if an overdose occurs. Studies indicate that OPSs can reduce overdoses, improve public safety, reduce infectious disease risks, and connect those with substance use disorder with treatment and recovery services.

The groups surveyed residents, business owners, faith leaders, healthcare and social service providers, law enforcement, elected officials, people in recovery, and people actively using opioids to provide information about OPSs, and to gauge their concerns over OPSs.

The group found that while 86 percent of the survey’s respondents felt that OPSs in neighborhoods would benefit public health through reduced overdose deaths, public drug use, and infectious disease risks, 22 percent felt the facilities would increase crime, drug selling, public drug use, and opioid overdoses.

The groups will now go on to create a community advisory council to assist with community education and engagement.

“We are excited to announce the next steps in this extremely important initiative in one of the most highly affected areas for overdoses in Illinois,” said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou. “This is the next step in the Overdose Prevention Site Community Engagement Project that Governor Pritzker announced in his executive order earlier this year and Chicago’s West Side neighborhood can absolutely benefit from these health centers that directly address opioid misuse.”

Chicago’s West Side neighborhood has one of the highest opioid overdose rates in Illinois. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, in 2018, the neighborhood saw a total of 2,408 overdoses, and 2,568 in 2019. The majority of the deaths, the Department said, involved heroin and heroin mixed or tainted with fentanyl.

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