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As opioid overdose deaths hit new record, pressure grows for safe places to inject drugs in Chicago
Cook County recorded more homicides last year than it had in decades, yet twice as many people died from opioid overdose, a rising epidemic that has a growing number of health experts pressing for safe spaces to inject drugs.
The toll from opioids has been increasing since 2015, when there were 647 overdose deaths in Cook County. This past year’s total is expected to be more than 2,000 once all tests are back from suspected cases.
State and local agencies spend millions of dollars each year to combat the problem, from offering more treatment programs to wider distribution of test strips and the drug naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
But the American Medical Association, reviewing the spike in Cook County deaths, concluded last year that more could and should be done.
The 175-year-old physicians group argued that “decriminalization of the use of illicit opioids” was crucial, and “there is an urgent need for safe injection sites, which have been associated with reduced overdose deaths when evaluated internationally.”
The sites, also called overdose prevention sites, are supervised spaces where users can enter and have their drugs tested before they are given clean needles. Supervisors do not help people administer drugs and are only present to intervene in case of an overdose.
Such places have been credited with preventing fatal overdoses in Canada and Australia for years. There are over 100 of the sites worldwide, and advocates say they more than pay for themselves. Every dollar spent on them generates $2.33 in health care savings, according to one study.
Cook County health officials say they support them, and the city of Chicago says it is tracking the experience of the country’s first two injection sites in New York City.
But no substantive action has been taken, even after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx visited a site in Canada two years ago.
David Struett has more on the opioid crisis in Chicago and how the city is responding here.
More news you need
- A University of Chicago police officer shot and wounded a gunman who opened fire in Hyde Park late this morning, officials said. The latest on this developing story here.
- A Chicago police sergeant who supervised the botched investigation into the death of David Koschman — who was punched to death in 2004 by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew — has been promoted to lieutenant. Sam Cirone had faced a possible one-year suspension over the case — but the 29-year veteran instead received a reprimand and, a Chicago Police Department spokesman confirmed, has moved up the ranks.
- The federal website where Americans can request free COVID-19 began accepting orders today — one day sooner than initially announced — as the White House looks to address nationwide shortages. The tests — found at COVIDTests.gov — are set to be shipped in late January, and supplies are limited to just four per home.
- A city-owned Gold Coast space that once housed the famed Maxim’s Restaurant is getting a new lease on life. The City Council’s Housing Committee agreed to sell the city-owned space and its companion parking space to local resident Adam Bilter and his 24 E. Goethe LLC for an appraised value of $680,000.
- In an attempt to stand out in Chicago’s competitive food scene, Frontier chef and owner Brian Jupiter decided on a meat source you won’t find in your backyard here — alligator. The result is the gator gnocchi, featured in the latest installment of our Dishin’ on the Dish series.
A bright one
Fans honor Betty White in her native Oak Park: ‘If she could’ve lived to 200, we would’ve preferred that’
Fans hugged Betty White cutouts. Others ate cake as they lowered masks adorned with White’s picture. An Oak Park resident waved a giant photo taped to a broom. Another held up a framed painting of her as the crowd sang along to the Golden Girls theme song, “Thank You For Being a Friend.”
Over a hundred people remembered the actress and comedian outside Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre last Saturday in the west suburb, where White was born in 1922. Although White was a few days short of 100 when she passed on December 31, 2021, Growing Community Media, which originally planned to celebrate White’s centennial birthday, held a “Betty White Centennial Celebration” to honor her legacy.
Since White loved animals, organizers set up an Animal Care League pet adoption pop-up across the street.
Denise Shanks came to the event with the intention of commemorating White. She left with a newly adopted puppy.
“I felt [adopting a dog] was a great way to honor her and her legacy,” Shanks said. “She had a good life, but, you know, you never like to see people like her go. If she could’ve lived to 200, we would’ve preferred that, right?”
Pat Nabong has more photos and details from the celebration here.
From the press box
- Tributes are flooding in from family, friends, colleagues and fans or broadcasting giant Les Grobstein, who died Sunday at 69. For Rick Telander, the radio icon’s death brings back memories of Lee Elia’s tirade in 1983 and a column-that-wasn’t two decades later.
- The Sky’s Lexie Brown will play in the Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural basketball season
- The Bulls are now past the halfway point of the regular season, and when breaking down the individual importance each player has had, the line starts behind Alex Caruso in many ways, Joe Cowley argues.
- There’s a lot of work to do as the Bears prepare for free agency and the draft, Jason Lieser writes. The sooner they line up a general manager and coach, the better.
Your daily question ☕
How has the Omicron surge impacted your 2022 plans?
Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
On Friday we asked you: Which Chicago park looks the best in the winter?
Here’s what some of you said…
“Marovitz Golf Course. Great place to cross country ski.” — Ted McClelland
“Not quite a park, but any of the SW Suburbs forest preserves are the best.” — Mark Bartlett
“Sherman Park always used to look real cool when the lagoon froze.” — Dennis Novak
“Grant Park and Millennium Park.” — Myrna Kar
“Jackson Park and Grant Park.” — Mo’ease E. Shegog-Winters
“Columbus Park.” — Vicki Dickens
“Garfield Park.” — Marilyn Scharko
“Washington Park.” — Erin Oni
“Humboldt Park.” — Katie Byrd
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