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Chicago Urban League Issues Statement on Executive Order to Address Racial Disparities in Opioid Death Rates

Photo Caption: Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed Executive Order 2020-02 on Jan. 27, 2020.

Chicago Urban League President & CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson issued the following statement in reaction to “Strengthening the State’s Commitment to Ending the Opioid Epidemic,” the Executive Order signed by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker yesterday (Jan. 27, 2020):

The Chicago Urban League is heartened by Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-02, which will provide $4.1 million in opioid prevention and treatment monies to address the racial disparities in Illinois’ overdose death rates.

In 2017, our Research & Policy Center released “Whitewashed,” a report that detailed the high rates of overdose among African Americans around the country and especially here in Chicago. According to a separate recent study, African Americans are 33 times less likely than whites to be prescribed buprenorphine, a kind of medication-assisted treatment that is used to treat opioid-use disorders and also protects against overdose.

The monies will also provide stipends for doctors to become trained in prescribing buprenorphine and to distribute 50,000 kits of naloxone, the overdose reversal medication, in areas that have extremely high overdose rates. This is much needed funding to address the disproportionate rate of opioid deaths that is devastating African-American communities.

While overdose deaths in Illinois have decreased for the first time in years, in 2018 deaths among African Americans increased by nearly 10% and deaths among Latinos increased by 4.3%. Opioid overdose deaths among whites decreased by 7%. Having the state acknowledge these disparities and create solutions to this public health crisis is a welcome step in a new direction.