In this Tuesday, Oct. 24, photo, Richard Rivera, still in his Saint Anthony Hospital gown, pleads with a member of the medical detox team to get him into a sober-living facility near his family in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The van was coming for Richard Rivera, but it was taking a long time. He waited inside the entrance of Saint Anthony Hospital where he had spent the past three days getting off heroin. Would Rivera get in the van, Williams wondered. More than 64,000 died of drug overdoses last year in the U.S., most from opioids.At 41, he's been a counselor for two decades, the last few years helping people with drug addiction. Illinois is spending $2.4 million of its Cures Act money for warm-handoff programs at Saint Anthony and eight other hospitals.All states got a slice in April and expect to get more next year.They must spend 80 percent on opioid addiction treatment and many are teaming up with hospitals on new strategies, as opioid-related hospitalizations soar.Rivera arrived here on a Saturday sick from heroin withdrawal.Part of a three-person team, Williams sees any patient who will talk with him.Williams watched as Rivera walked into the hospital emergency room instead of through the front door.This particular week, eight opioid-addicted patients were admitted to Saint Anthony; the team helped half of them start treatment.The van was coming, this time for 58-year-old Albert Nunley.Two days earlier, he told a counselor he'd been using heroin for nearly 40 years.
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