'We've got to step up and fill a void': Hotline aims to help those struggling with opioid addiction

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The opioid epidemic continues to plague the Chicago area and Friday, city leaders announced efforts to help those seeking help.

The city's top doctor, Allison Arwady, highlighted the staggering statistics.

"For every 3 to 4 Chicagoans that dies of COVID in that first year, another Chicagoan died of an opioid overdose," Arwady said.

She added that in recent years, more Chicagoans died of fatal opioid overdoses than died of homicides and car crashes combined.

RELATED: Opioid crisis: US overdose deaths hit record 107K last year, CDC says

Arwady joined Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown as they announced the success of a recent drug trafficking investigation.

Several members and associates of a Chicago street gang were arrested last week on the West Side, according to Lightfoot.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced drug trafficking take down, as well as the city's new effort to bring more safety and security to communities.



Those arrested are accused of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

"We arrested more than 30 offenders. Recovered more than 15 firearms and ammunition. Over 250 rounds of ammunition. And took drugs, often laced with Fentynal... off the street," Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said.

Police also recovered over several hundred thousand dollars in cash, Brown added.

Ten are facing federal charges.

"As a whole, this take down is the result of a multi-year, joint federal and local drug trafficking investigation," Lightfoot said.

The investigation also helped shut down three "open-air drug markets" in West Garfield Park, as well as numerous guns taken off the street.

RELATED: Gov. JB Pritzker announces plan to prevent deaths from opioid addiction

"But, importantly, we gave the streets back to the people who live there," Lightfoot said. "Now that these people have been detained, we must step in to further support the community with positive resources to make it that much safer."

"We are giving the residents back what was stolen from them," Brown added.

Among the announcement, city leaders also revealed the city's new effort to bring more safety and security to communities.

"We are working to rebuild that sense of safety and security until every person on this block feels it," Brown said.

"We've got to step up and fill a void," Lightfoot added.

The plan includes "comprehensive support services."

"Visibility, engagement and collaboration is at the heart of our efforts," Brown said.

"Opioid overdoses are the number five cause of our cause racial life expectancy gap," Arwady said. "Opioid overdoses land in every part of this city but they land especially hard on predominantly black communities and especially hard on the West Side."

Arwady said a new Chicago hotline can help connect those struggling with substance abuse find the help and resources they need. That hotline is: 833-234-6343.
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