In the past year, Naperville has mourned the loss of loved ones taken by a disease known as addiction.
The issue has sparked a number of gatherings to help gain awareness for heroin dependence. U.S. Representative, Judy Biggert hosted the latest forum.
Heroin abuse in Naperville is responsible for ten overdoses in 2011, more than half of which were fatal.
A panel of experts led a Heroin Education and Prevention forum at Wentz Concert Hall. One topic stressed, was the importance of knowing the science behind the addiction.
“It’s considered a brain disease. Not a moral failing. A brain disease because drugs change the brain.” Said Dr. T. Celeste Napier, the Director of the Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction at Rush University Medical Center.
Robert Crown’s Center for Health Education, CEO, Kathleen Burke said, “It’s not about what you do, but why you do it. We are finding that kids use because there are underlying issues.”
Police helped explain how the series of forums could be helping turn the increasing numbers of heroin related deaths around.
“A lot more people are saying, I’ve got to get the cops involved. I’ve got to get the firefighters involved. This leads to treatment and saving a life, and I hope we stay on that track, knock on wood,” said Shaun Ferguson, Special Operations Agent with the Naperville Police.
Naperville Resident, Patrick Malone said, “The community recognizes that. And then decides how they want to act. And how we follow through with it as a group. I think Naperville is capable of doing that.”
Heroin addicts make up only 1% of the population in Naperville, but there are still nearly 130 known users in town, compared to just 30 a few years ago.
“Every time we arrest or make contact, we find six or eight new users…people that we’ve never even heard of,” said Michael Umbenhower, Special Operations Agent with the Naperville Police.
Parents were encouraged to contact school counselors, or local support groups if they suspected their teen of using, and can do so anonymously.
For more information, contact the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization, or HERO at theherofoundation.org.
NCTV17's Ashley Vroman Reports.