In 2013 a rising number of deaths related to heroin, prompted the DuPage County coroner to address the county board informing them of the epidemic.
“When our Coroner, Dr. Jorgensen pressed the alarm button we had to decide whether or not we were going to react or whether or not we were going to sit and not do anything. We decided to react and formed the group that we have,” said Grant Eckoff, Member of the DuPage County Board.
The DuPage County Coalition against heroin created a three pronged approach to addressing the drug problem.
First education: They launched an informative website that people could use to gather information on the epidemic, and partnered with the Robert Crown center to educate youth through class visits.
“We’ve been successful with that over the past two years they have come on board. The first year we made the project available to 12 schools and the county paid 50% and now its available to all middle and high schools in the county. Education is really the key to all of it,” said Eckoff.
Next, medical intervention: The county received special approval from the FDA to allow first responders to administer Narcan, a drug that reverses the symptoms of an overdose.
“That program was started in 2013 and fully administered in 2014 and to date we have saved 76 lives,” said DuPage County Coroner, Dr. Richard Jorgensen.
In 2013 heroin took the lives of 46. In 2014 that number dropped to 33 the downward trend seems to have continued well into 2015 with only 20 confirmed heroin deaths so far.
But a recent spike in overdoses over the past two months has resulted in seven deaths, which could be linked to the drug.
“We think we are really making progress but then we get one of these peaks and we don’t know why they happen. It could be due to bad distribution, it could be due to lacing of the drugs and we don’t really know why it happens but it is like the same thing that happened to us back in July 2013,” said Jorgensen.
Though toxicology reports for those cases are still pending, the county continues to actively fight the heroin epidemic and recently rolled out the final phase in their plan, rehabilitation.
“We’ve starting another program, Project Connect, where everybody who is saved following an overdose will be contacted by a county health official to try and get them the resources they need to become a healthy active citizen again,” said Jorgensen.
With programs in place for success, the county hopes to be a leader in the nation’s fight against drugs.
Naperville News 17’s Natalie Vitale Reports.
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