Deaths from synthetic opioids are up 2,736 percent since 2013 in Illinois. Here’s what lawmakers are doing to curb fentanyl deaths.

ILLINOIS — Amid a more than 2,700 percent increase in deaths from synthetic opioid overdoses in Illinois over less than a decade, lawmakers here and elsewhere in the country are tackling the fentanyl crisis that has contributed to several recent mass overdose incidents in other states.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, opioid overdoses increased 33 percent between 2019 and 2020, with 2,944 opioid overdose deaths in 2020. That’s more than twice the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents in Illinois and more than twice the number of homicides. Fentanyl played a role in most of those deaths.

Last month, state Sen. Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) introduced a bill that would impose harsher penalties for people who distribute fentanyl, but would give people seeking treatment for an overdose immunity from being prosecuted for possessing small amounts of the drug. The move is aimed at saving lives and encouraging people to seek help for fentanyl overdoses without fear of arrest.

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