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Letters to the Editor: Boost state funding to fight heroin epidemic

Along with other states, Illinois is faced with a heroin epidemic.  We should be grateful to Kathie Kane Willis and her students at the Illinois Consortium of Drug Policy at Roosevelt University for their report of June 11 documenting the dramatic increase in heroin use even as the state cuts treatment services that could address the crisis.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Prescription pain killers can lead to heroin addiction. We need increased state-funded treatment for heroin and opioid use disorders.  Medicaid should cover this in Illinois as it does in other states.  We should make naloxone and methadone available to reduce the number of overdose deaths.

Last February, Gov. Bruce Rauner created a special commission to advise him on how to address mass incarceration by reducing the state prison population by 25 percent within 10 years. The members of this commission should pay close attention to the Illinois Drug Consortium Report. Providing methadone for just 2,500 people could save the state at least $80 million “in reduced crime and health care consequences” and “reduce the prison population among class 4 offenders by approximately 1,000 cases per year.”

There’s a problem. This, and other recommendations in the report, call for an upfront investment in drug treatment and other social services. Sadly, this is precisely kind of expenditure that the governor is holding hostage in the current budget deadlock.

It is critical that the Governor’s Commission not be bound by a short-term mentality. The members must be willing to recommend measures that may seem inconsistent with the Governor’s current budget positions. They must have the courage to challenge the governor to invest in services that will address drug use addiction as a health rather than a criminal justice issue.

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp,  executive director, Clergy for a New Drug Policy

Support local schools

Ald. Ameya Pawar’s (47th) view that neighborhood schools should be a top priority for the city of Chicago makes so much sense that this idea probably will not get too far.

How can parents possibly feel connected to their child’s school when it is miles away? Any problems your child may face can be handled easier when the school is in close proximity. Putting all resources into these schools instead of diluting their needs with these “selective enrollment” schools benefits the greater number of pupils. Really, does Chicago need another reason for people to flee the city?

Judy McDermott, Norwood Park

Support diplomacy

Critics of the nuclear deal with Iran won’t give diplomacy a single chance, even though they have given more coercive approaches a thousand chances in Iraq and Iran, and these have all failed. Diplomacy is the approach most likely to succeed. We should support it.

Malcolm Litowitz, Northbrook

The real thing

Gene Lyons’ column on Saturday is a classic example of journalistic integrity. With Lyons you never get watered down, instant potatoes. Always the real thing. Peeled, boiled and mashed.

Tony Galati, Lemont

Typical politician

I was not a fan of the way Bruce Rauner bought the governorship. Now he is rewarding campaign backers with positions in his administration, openly defying his own campaign pledge to end patronage in Springfield.

We need fewer billionaires in government, not more. They may have the means to buy our vote, but they don’t speak for the people. They are out of touch with the common folk that are trying to eke out a living in this state.

And throw onto the pile the latest double-speak coming from the governor’s office. Just last week he said he had told his staff, “Don’t use personal email for any government business whatsoever,” while his lawyers argue the opposite in court to protect Beth Purvis, who had done just that.  The administration had also tried to conceal those private emails, contradicting yet another campaign pledge of transparency in the governor’s office.

Do you see it people?  The very things he attacked Pat Quinn for are now coming to life all over again. Rauner is no different than any other politician; he said what you wanted to hear to get into office, then played by his own rules once he pulled his sheep clothing off to reveal the wolf, reminding us of the old adage, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”  Will this state ever be great again?  If we keep electing people with personal agendas, I kind of doubt it.

Scot Sinclair, Gurnee

Keep oil export ban

Recently, there has been some talk on Capitol Hill about lifting the national embargo on the export of American-produced oil. Congress should know that this is not a strategy that would help protect consumers and would only enhance the profits of oil companies that have already made a combined profit of $1 trillion in the past decade. The ban is just as important now as it was when it was created.

Like it or not, American families rely heavily on gasoline, whether they own cars or use transit, and it’s a big part of their budget. Allowing exports of American-produced crude would force us to import more from overseas with prices set mainly by OPEC-led countries that are frequently subject to conflict and disruption. This would mean higher gas prices for Illinois families and less left over from their paycheck. Research from the “Alaska exception “in 1996 shows that gas prices in the western U.S. rose between 7-12 cents per gallon while these exports were happening.

While some proponents of lifting the ban have said that the energy landscape is completely different from when the embargo began in 1975, it is important to note that the U.S. imported the same proportion of oil in 2013 as it did in 1975. With new and improved harvesting methods and cleaner technologies, there is no excuse for us to go back to a disproportionate dependence on foreign oil.

Lifting the embargo is a bad idea for Illinois consumers and a bad idea for our national energy strategy.  

Joshua Collins Legislative Director, Citizen Action/Illinois