Reducing effects of opioids in Illinois a priority, IDHS secretary says
The opioid crisis continues to be a focus of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) budget, according to Secretary James Dimas.
At the April 10 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Dimas discussed the funds needed to continue IDHS programs including substance abuse, mental illness, developmental disability, vocational rehabilitation, home services, wellness and child care for fiscal 2019.
While increasing self-sufficiency and employment for individuals in IDHS programs and improving mental health diversion and capacity are key, reducing the opioid crisis' impact in the state is a top priority, Dimas said.
Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) wanted to know if there is a break down of data, detailing the misconception of the crisis sweeping the nation.
“I know opioid is the new catchphrase for everything, but I think the public and media get a misunderstanding of individuals who may have been taking Oxycontin that are no longer allowed to take that and they self-medicate verses others who are taking heroin and were never involved in a prescription program,” Syverson said.
Syverson said the media combines the two types of opioids together, so the public is being led to believe all heroin overdoses are related to prescription medication in some way, which they are not.
“Is there a reason why they are all lumped together, because they are two distinctively different groups?” Syverson said.
Dimas said the though the ecology of the disease may be different, the treatment is the same regardless of how someone comes to have an opioid abuse disorder.
“I think the resources that we have to treat the disorders that fall under that group all work together towards the same purpose,” Dimas said. “I think that is why we don’t spend more time sorting those two things out.”
Syverson said he is concerned about data collection after rumors that pharmacy companies are being sued for opioid overdoses before asking if the opioid crisis is causing staffing issues at IDHS.
“At this point it has,” Dimas said, adding staff has been added to deal with the crisis, which has caused further performance management education to be taught.
Before asking Dimas a few questions, Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) commended the department that does not always see exciting headlines when it is allocating daily resources throughout the year to avoid spending.
“I appreciate that kind of management can open you up to accusations of cutting money, but clearly what you are doing is managing the budget and quite frankly that is something we haven’t seen in a long time,” Righter said.
Righter then questioned the Strategic Operating Model, a notion he said he believed was bogus when he first heard it, but said he wanted to give Dimas a chance to explain the process. Dimas said it is a combination of all of his work with the department in the past 30 years, specifically from former DHS Secretary Howard Peters.
“I understood the importance of informing the workforce on what we were asking them to do and why it was important,” Dimas said of the model’s operational foundation that stresses a clear set of values and beliefs.
“You’re truly a believer, and I appreciate that,” Righter said before sharing he would like to see Dimas be more mindful in the future of disseminating unwelcome news, if any, to all stakeholders in the government.
“I don’t think we were always as good as that as we needed to be,” Dimas said.