BELLEVILLE — The Illinois Department of Human Services has hired a Boston-based company to run an opioid help hotline, despite receiving proposals from at least three Illinois providers.

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans for the hotline last year. It's part of the state's effort to combat the opioid epidemic.

Illinois launches helpline to fight opioid addiction

The $1.2 million program is being paid for through a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The department searched for a provider that could operate the hotline at all hours every day and could handle 30,000 calls a year, the Belleville News-Democrat reported. Chicago-based Caritas, Chicago-area nonprofit Pilsen-Little Village Community Mental Health Center and the Iroquois Mental Health Center in eastern Illinois were among those that submitted proposals.

But the state agency opted to go with Boston-based Health Resources in Action.

In their proposals, the agencies listed how much of the hotline budget would be allocated to personnel, fringe benefits, hotline equipment and other expenses.

Health Resources in Actions said it would spend more than $515,000 to develop and maintain the hotline system by Texas-based Nebulogic Technologies. Health Resources in Action also planned a $65,000 marketing and communications budget and is working with the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago to promote the opioid hotline.

Spokesman Patrick Laughlin said the department chose a vendor that didn't have a conflict of interest when referring individuals to treatment.

"It's imperative that the helpline remains impartial when referring individuals to treatment, and this aspect may have limited the number of Illinois organizations interested in responding to the (request for proposals)," said Laughlin.

The hotline is available 24 hours a day. It's received 1,000 calls since starting.

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