A picture of Representative Cheri Bustos
Cheri B.
Democrat IL 17

About Rep. Cheri
  • Faces of Addiction

    by Representative Cheri Bustos

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    BUSTOS. I thank the gentlewoman from New Hampshire for yielding time on this critically important issue.

    I also thank the gentlewoman and Congressman Guinta for pulling this Special Order together and for their hard work on the Bipartisan Task Force to address this heroin epidemic.

    Mr. Speaker, as the heroin epidemic sweeps the Nation, too many families and communities are mourning the deaths of loved ones who have been lost over the years due to heroin addiction and addiction to painkillers. One of the lives we lost not too long ago was in a town called Rockford, Illinois, which is in the heart of my congressional district.

    The gentleman's name was Chris Boseman. He was 32 years old when he died in the summer of 2014. He was a kind, tender-hearted son and brother. He had a back injury that led to his addiction to pain medication.

    When he could no longer get relief from that pain medication, he began to buy different kinds of pain relief on the street. As the costs would add up, his dealer told him about something called heroin and that he could get this for $10.

    After his first overdose, Chris tried hard to fight his addiction. He had a couple of relapses, but it appeared that he had been successful in overcoming this addiction.

    He enrolled at Rock Valley College, a community college, where he studied construction management. He was 1 year away from graduating. No one knew that he was still fighting this battle because he was ashamed of it. One night he was home alone--he was just over 1 year clean--when he relapsed again and died.

    The sad thing is that Chris' story is all too common. In fact, I lost a member of my own family to the heroin epidemic when my brother-in- law's son died after overdosing on heroin in the summer of 2013.

    He was not the kind of kid one would think would be taking something like heroin. His dad had no idea. His family had no idea. He was a college football player. He was a musician. He was an avid weight lifter and was just a red-headed kid who was fun to be around.

    Yet, when he injured his back and his knee and felt that he needed more than just aspirin and a little physical therapy to overcome this pain, he got on painkillers. As we are telling these stories this evening, this eventually led to his trying heroin as a way to relieve his pain. It was probably, they thought, the third time that he took heroin. He ingested what would be considered pure heroin, and he died.

    I am here to say that we can no longer sit on the sidelines while folks in our communities and our family members are suffering and are dying, when parents are burying their children, and when the men and women who are struggling with this addiction are crying out for help.

    We also know that heroin use is increasing among young people, especially in my home State of Illinois, with a nearly 50 percent increase in the use of heroin just in the last several years.

    In Winnebago County, which is where Rockford is, which I was talking about earlier, there were 51 heroin-related deaths in 2013 alone. In Peoria, which is also in the heart of my congressional [[Page H91]] district, emergency responders see at least one heroin overdose every single day.

    Perhaps the most troubling is not just this rapid increase in the usage or in the rising number of overdoses, but in our inability to treat those who need it the most. While heroin use is increasing rapidly in every region of my home State, there has been a dramatic decrease in the availability of treatment. In fact, Illinois ranked worst--last in the Nation--in the overall decline in treatment capacity.

    While we are at the height of this heroin epidemic, last year our Governor proposed a budget that would cut our already inadequate State- funded treatment programs by 60 percent.

    To make matters worse, the ongoing budget crisis in Illinois has gutted the funding for treatment programs like one in my district of Rockford. It is called Remedies Renewing Lives. That is why next week, when the President gives his State of the Union, my guest will be a guy named Gary Halbach, who is the president of Remedies.

    It is so he can witness the State of the Union and so he can talk about the important work that he and his colleagues at Remedies are doing every single day. Under the pressure of tremendous budgetary shortfalls, Gary and his team have been on the front lines in providing treatment to heroin addicts and support for victims of domestic violence.

    We will not end the heroin epidemic if the programs that have been proven to help continue to be undermined and significantly underfunded. We cannot turn a blind eye to the families and to the communities that have been affected by the heroin epidemic. They deserve better. They deserve solutions.

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