City police, fire and health officials will join PEER Services and NorthShore University HealthSystem for a panel discussion Jan. 18 on opioid prevention, treatment and outreach hosted by the Evanston Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

The event will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, 1823 Church St.

Discussion topics will include prescription drug misuse, the scope of the opioid crisis, substance use disorder treatment, medication-assisted treatment, the importance of partnerships and collaborations, safe prescription drug disposal, use of the overdose reversal drug, naloxone (Narcan), and the City’s Opioid Response Group.

In 2017, the City formed the Opioid Response Group to address the national opioid epidemic’s impact in Evanston. The group, comprised of representatives from various City departments, the Evanston Public Library, and local community organizations, has discussed tactics to help save lives and reduce the impact of the epidemic locally, including education, prevention, diversion from prosecution, and the deployment of naloxone by Evanston Fire paramedics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses killed roughly 64,000 people in the United States in 2016, an increase of more than 22 percent over the 52,404 drug-related deaths recorded the previous year. More than 6 out of 10 drug overdose deaths nationwide involve an opioid. Drug overdoses are expected to remain the leading cause of death nationwide for Americans under 50, as synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl and its analogues, continue to push the death count higher.

The CDC says Illinois had proportionatetly fewer death from drug overdoses in 2016 than the national average.

Although Evanston has not seen the high number of opioid overdoses experienced by some other communities, emergency responders have indicated that overdoses in Evanston continue to grow on a yearly basis.

In December, Governor Bruce Rauner announced the launch of a statewide hotline to provide immediate assistance for those impacted by addiction to opioids and other substances. The helpline provides a confidential outlet for individuals experiencing opioid use disorders, their families and anyone affected by the disease 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Helpline specialists are trained in evidence-based approaches to help connect callers with treatment and recovery-support services. To reach the helpline, call 1-833-2FINDHELP.

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