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Illinois bills allow redistribution of prescription drugs, require menstrual products at homeless shelters

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SPRINGFIELD — The Senate Health Committee voted Tuesday to advance two bills that would create a prescription drug repository program and require that feminine hygiene products be provided free of charge at homeless shelters.

Both bills have already passed the House and will now be considered before the full Senate.

House Bill 119 would establish a prescription drug repository program, allowing certain unused prescription drugs to be returned to pharmacies and reused for eligible populations. The bill would allow individuals to return unexpired prescription and over-the-counter medication that remains in unopened, tamper-evident packaging.

Unused medications could be returned by individuals at participating pharmacies, and prescription donors would be required to provide information regarding the strength and quantity of each donation.

“Instead of medication ending up in landfills, this would create an opportunity for there to be relief for Illinoisans who are struggling to afford their medication,” chief Senate sponsor Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, said during a Tuesday committee hearing.

George Wang, co-founder of the nonprofit organization SIRUM, or Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine, told the committee that through this program, unused prescriptions could be sent to other charities or community health organizations to assist vulnerable low-income patients and those in need of low-cost prescriptions.

The bill passed by a unanimous 13-0 vote and will be sent to the Senate floor.

The Senate Health Committee on Tuesday also passed House Bill 310, which would require homeless shelters to provide feminine hygiene products.

The bill would require that products such as sanitary napkins, tampons and pantyliners be made available for free at all shelters that provide temporary housing assistance to women and youth.

It applies to public and private shelters, but the shelter's obligation to provide the products is “subject to the availability of funds in the homeless shelter's general budget.”

“There is no excuse for depriving any individual the right to basic hygiene,” chief Senate sponsor Christopher Belt, D-Centreville, said Tuesday. “Not providing for such an essential need to some of our most vulnerable citizens is shameful and should no longer happen in Illinois.”

Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, said the bill would also encourage individuals to donate feminine hygiene products, which are often in short supply at homeless and temporary support shelters.

The bill passed by an 11-2 vote and will be sent to the full Senate for consideration.

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