EAST PEORIA — Combating the opioid crisis in central Illinois will be discussed by a panel of local professionals at a town hall meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at East Peoria City Hall, 401 W. Washington St.

The town hall meeting, sponsored by the East Peoria Fire Department, is open to both the public and emergency-response personnel from throughout the area. Admission is free.

Speakers will include Chris Schaffner of the Human Service Center in Peoria, Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood and Dr. Tamara Olt of the JOLT Foundation, an organization committed to drug awareness and harm reduction.

Representatives of law enforcement, substance-abuse treatment programs and the medical community also will contribute.

"The opioid crisis is a widespread problem, and this is a way for public safety officials and the public to discuss ideas to combat it," said EPFD Assistant Chief Ryan Beck, who oversees the department's emergency services division and organized the town hall meeting. "Community agencies and the public need to work together to develop a coordinated way to address and stop this epidemic."

From 2013 to 2016, Illinois experienced more than a 44 percent increase in drug overdose deaths primarily attributed to opioids, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Tazewell and Peoria counties had the second-highest number of opioid overdose deaths in the state.

For more information, Call Beck at 427-7672.