Sen. Durbin works to expand Medicaid substance abuse treatment

Eighty percent of people addicted to heroin started by using opioids, like prescription pain medication. It’s an epidemic that has U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, concerned.

He says in Illinois, less than 12 percent of addicts get the treatment they need.

"There is no town too small and no suburb too wealthy to escape the heroin epidemic that we’re facing in America today," says Durbin.

Tara Long says she’s been clean for two years, thanks to help she received at Gateway Treatment Center in Carbondale.

"I was lucky, because I had a counselor who helped me get into treatment," says Long.

Not everyone is as lucky. Right now, nearly 200 people are on a waiting list to get treatment through the center’s Medicaid Patient Program. However, Medicaid only covers up to 16 patients at a time, and it’s something Durbin is trying to change. He introduced a new piece of legislation that would raise the number from 16 to 40. He says the measure would allow more than 2,000 people to access substance abuse treatment each year.

"We have a dramatic need for more beds to treat those who need substance abuse treatment," says Durbin.

The senator says he plans to introduce the measure as an amendment to a bill with enough momentum to pass.

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