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updated: 2/7/2010 3:24 PM

Moms plead with legislators to help fight heroin

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Beating drug addiction is hard enough, but getting on with life after that can be just as difficult.

Many former addicts have felony drug convictions on their records, making it almost impossible to find a decent job, get a college loan, or rent an apartment.

"If you can get past the first hurdle (of beating drug addiction), then there are five more hurdles in front of you," said Rosanne Tokarz of Cary, a volunteer with Hearts of Hope, a suburban drug support and advocacy group.

Tokarz is among a group of suburban women who have been meeting with local legislators, trying to drum up support for programs that help recovering addicts get back on their feet.

Their main focus is to secure funding or grants for drug courts and drug treatment programs. Some drug courts have started deferring felony sentences for nonviolent drug crimes if a person successfully completes a treatment program, which the women say is a helpful step. But funding for these programs is being whittled away by the state and federal government.

"The drug courts really do help people stay clean, because they have accountability with treatment, plus sanctions when needed. So it's important to keep them funded," said Lea Minalga of Geneva, who heads up the drug education, advocacy and support organization Hearts of Hope.

So far, the legislators have been receptive, Minalga said, but nothing's happened.

"All you hear all day long is there's no funding, there's no funding. (The legislators) are pretty overwhelmed. But people aren't getting the help that they deserve and need," Minalga said. "The families just try to do the best they can with what they have, and there's not enough help out there for them ... so we hope the squeaky wheel gets the oil."