The Naperville AAUW brought the Naperville Police Department and local addiction treatment providers together to talk about the opioid crisis.
Last year, Naperville saw 40 opiate overdoses with eight of them turning fatal – just under 10 percent of DuPage County’s 95 total opioid deaths in 2017.
Naperville Police Department Deputy Chief Jason Arres shared these statistics at a recent discussion on the opiate crisis in city hall.
“Eight deaths is eight too many,” said Arres. “Our goal in our city and our society should be zero. We don’t want anybody to die from an overdose. The good part is that we saved 32 people with our Narcan program.”
One of the reasons overdoses are on the rise is the new prevalence of fentanyl – a synthetic opioid several times stronger than heroin.
But the opioid crisis itself has been going on for years. Matthew Quinn from the Rosecrance Health Network says it started in the 1990s, when Oxycontin was first approved for prescription use.
“I had surgery for a hernia, and I took maybe 3, 4, 5 of them. I was left with 20 or 30,” said Quinn. “But some people see the extra pills and they just keep taking them like they’re following the course of an antibiotic.”
Continuing to take prescribed opiates for pain after they are no longer needed creates the risk of developing a dependency – which can lead to the abuse of drugs like heroin, since it’s cheaper to obtain on the street than prescription drugs.
The City of Naperville has prescription drop-off boxes at the police department and every firehouse for safe disposal of unused medicine.
Another program by the police department is “Connect for Life”. Through this system, drug addicts can go to the police, who will then connect them with treatment providers.
“We are not going to arrest our way of this problem,” said Arres. “You can’t put drug addicts in handcuffs and assume that sending them to prison is going to save them. We need to work with the different resources we have in the community to nip this problem in the bud.”
Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.