A recent report by the Chicago Urban League found that African-Americans in Illinois were more likely to be victims of opioid abuse but less likely to receive attention or access to treatment.
The report, “Whitewashed: The African American Opioid Epidemic,” found that although African-Americans make up 15 percent of the state population, they account for nearly a quarter of all opioid-related deaths in Illinois and nearly half of all opioid-related deaths in Chicago. African-Americans in Illinois also continue to die at a faster rate than whites in the state, while the victims of opioid crisis continues to be framed as largely white suburban residents.
Between 2013 and 2016, opioid pill-related deaths among whites in Illinois increased by around 180 percent, but by more than 800 percent among black Illinois residents, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
In 2017, more than 1,000 people died from opioid-related causes in Cook County — more than even gun-related deaths. So in recent months, local government has made tackling the opioid crisis a priority: in September, Gov. Bruce Rauner launched a 24/7 drug-addiction hotline; last week, Cook County joined the ranks of five of its suburban counterparts and filed a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies in an effort to hold them accountable for their part in the opioid crisis.
But researcher Kathie Kane-Willis, director of policy and advocacy at the Chicago Urban League and co-author of the report, says that many of the state’s proposed solutions will not make it to African-American victims, particularly on Chicago’s South and West Sides.
Morning Shift talks to Kane-Willis about her research on the treatment gap among communities of color in Chicago and across the state.