Residents recently gathered at Linden Oaks at Edward Behavioral Health Center to learn more about the heroin epidemic and what DuPage County is doing to put an end to the war on drugs.
One of the most addictive drugs on the streets has been steadily taking lives over the years, even stealing some of our very own youth.
“I say we had seven people in DuPage County in 2013 who died before they were old enough to buy a beer and these are high school students,” said DuPage County Coroner, Richard Jorgensen.
Heroin is a cause of concern for many local parents. In answer to their fears, State Senator Michael Connelly and Linden Oaks at Edward Mental Health Center sponsored a forum to help better inform the public.
“I think the more we educate, the more we communicate, the easier it will be to eradicate,” said Illinois State Senator, Michael Connelly.
The panel of five tried to address some of the major questions surrounding the drug, including why people get addicted, how it affects individuals and what’s caused the rise in use.
“The cost, a tenth of a gram of heroin is enough to get somebody high, cost about $10, that’s what they’re selling for on the streets. What we’ve seen is the increase in purity from back in the 60’s and 70’s, we were looking at 4% and right now it’s about 35% pure,” said DuPage County State’s Attorney, Robert Berlin.
In 2013 there were 46 deaths in DuPage County due to heroin; in 2014, 32 deaths, possibly 33 pending toxicology reports. The decrease this past year is partially credited to the DuPage Narcan program instituted last January.
“We have equipped our first responders, our police officers with Narcan which is antidote to heroin. We had 36 times that DuPage County Police Officers used the Narcan and saved somebody’s life,” said Jorgensen.
Even with the lives that were saved, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Corey Worden, stressed that there is still much more that needs to be done.
“We have to reach out to our children every day over and over again if we have to, so that they understand that there’s a clear message and they understand where you stand as an adult,” said Worden.
And if the message doesn’t get across, there are signs that every parent can look for to tell if their kids might have a problem.
“School problems may be the first thing that you notice because it comes up you know, substance abuse problem is generally going to come up in a school environment and that’s when they first reach out to treatment,” said Worden. “Missing possessions is obviously one of the biggest things, missing money, unexplained places where that money could go.”
Deb Lewin, the Co-Founder of Positive Acceptance Toward Healing, a group that helps parents who have children with an addiction, knows just how destructive this drug can be.
“It destroys your family, it takes everything from you, you watch your loved ones suffer, kill themselves slowly in front of you and it just destroys everything,” said Lewin.
The next step in the fight is Senate Bill 73, which if passed would provide school health administrators with Narcan.
“If there is a child that is, you know, experiencing overdose, they have it available you wont have to wait for the fire department to show up,” said Senator Connelly.
At $20 a dose, it’s a cost that’s worth its price for the chance at life it can bring.
And Narcan recently showed its effectiveness right here in town, when the Naperville Police used the drug for the first time to save the life of a 17-year-old female who had overdosed on heroin.
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