Naloxone legal in Illinois, Congressman tries to make it nation wide

By Jack Adams

In 2008, Jody Daitchman walked into the room of her son, Alex Laliberte, and found him lifeless. He had overdosed on prescription painkillers.

“It’s an experience like no other,” Daitchman said, ”not like your 90-year- old grandmother dying, who’s lived a full life. This was a 20-year-old with his life ahead of him.”

Last month, U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill) announced his sponsorship for H. R. 4586 ‘Lali’s Law.’ Named in memoriam of Laliberte, Lali’s Law would allow states to apply for federal grant funding, enabling pharmacies to carry naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

On February 22, Dold announced Lali’s Law at the Arlington Heights offices of Live4Lali, an organization Daitchman founded in 2009 to push Illinois legislation to provide naloxone. Last year, Live4Lali advocated for the passage of the Illinois Heroin Crisis Act, which allowed pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription.

The grants last for three years and provide up to than $500,000.

Dold said he hopes Alex’s story will help overdose victims and their families get a second chance at life.
“I can’t even begin to fathom the pain of losing one of my own children to a drug overdose,” Dold said.

Laliberte’s sister, Chelsea, has worked full-time at Live4Lali for two years. She said the organization works hard to dispel the stigma of addiction so that addicts might feel more comfortable seeking treatment. For those ready to seek treatment, Live4Lali directs them to the right services for potential recovery.

“This is our American problem,” Chelsea Laliberte said.

Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther, who spoke at the Lali’s Law announcement, said some of the 55 officers under him said they wanted to do more for victims of drug overdoses, but without Naloxone, they were forced to wait for paramedics to arrive on the scene.

“(The officers) would just stand there and watch,” Guenther said.

Circumstances have improved since that time. Today many Lake County police officers have been trained in naloxone use since the passing of the Heroin Crisis Act. In the past year, Guenther said, police officers have saved 56 lives in Lake County, home to Mundelein.

Chelsea Laliberte said her brother used heroin to escape anxiety and depression.

“He didn’t want to do heroin,” Laliberte said. “He just wanted to live life without pain.”

Chris Reed, a recovering heroin addict who spoke at the Live4Lali press conference, said he also didn’t want to use heroin but was afraid of sobriety.

“(Drug addiction) eventually wears you down until you’re an empty shell of a human being.” Reed said. “There’s nothing to live for.”

While still addicted to heroin, Reed was revived three times in one week by naloxone.

Since achieving sobriety in 2009, Reed founded New Directions, which helps put current addicts in touch with treatment services. He also created a “sober bar” for recovering addicts to enjoy a social life while remaining sober.

“None of that would have been possible if I wasn’t saved by naloxone,” Reed said.

The Federal version of Lali’s Law was submitted to the Committee on Energy and Commerce for review on February 23.

Photo at top: U.S. Rep. Robert Dold addressed a crowd at Live4Lali’s Arlington, IL headquarters (Patrick Martin/MEDILL)