Pat Spangler, Mary Ann Abate speak to legislators about Rockford heroin epidemic


ROCKFORD – Rosecrance’s Pat Spangler, Men’s Inpatient Unit Coordinator, and Mary Ann Abate, Vice President of Public Policy, gave testimony for the Young Adult Heroin Use Task Force hearing at Rock Valley College on Saturday, March 1. The task force addresses the growing problem of heroin use in high schools across the state. Spangler commented on the trends in heroin use related to treatment, particularly the spike in the number of opiate-addicted patients 18-25 years old.

“The trends that we’re seeing are the number of patients that are returning, which is a good thing because they’re still alive, but also the number of patients that identify opiates as their primary drug of choice,” said Spangler.

Last year, 124 people died of drug overdoses in Winnebago County, and 51 of those overdoses were heroin-related.

Spangler also suggested changes to the education system regarding the stigma surrounding this issue. “Society tends to say, ‘Well they chose it so they deserve it.’ To me that’s just a lack of knowledge about treating addiction as a disease. We need to challenge the stigma.”

Mary Ann Abate addressed how mental health issues affect heroin addiction, as well as the importance of increased funding for the Triage and Crisis Residential programs.

Over 50 individuals attended the hearing, including State Rep. Sam Yingling, State Rep. John Cabello, State Sen. Kyle McCarter, and State Sen. Steve Studelman. Many other organizations and individuals shared their expertise and personal stories about the heroin epidemic. The Young Adult Heroin Use Task Force will report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor on or before June 30, 2014.

“I’m very proud to say that I’ve seen this community come together and attack this issue from a multi-faceted standpoint,” said Spangler. ” I like the way we’re moving and I encourage this community to continue to combat this together.”