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updated: 4/16/2012 11:15 PM

Forum: Parents are first line of defense against heroin, other drugs

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Joyce Hoch's oldest son, Jimmy, was born on the same day in 1982 as England's Prince William.

But instead of a life of possibilities, heroin tormented Jimmy for many of his 28 years and robbed his family of a son, brother and uncle.

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"Heroin took away his tomorrow. I miss him every day," the Palatine mom said of her son, who died of an overdose in August 2010. "My son will always be my prince, but he's now my angel, too."

Hoch was one of several speakers Monday night at a drug education and prevention forum called "Parents: You Matter."

Presented by the Kane County Sheriff's Department and Hearts of Hope, the forum focused on heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse.

Chicago may be know as the "Second City," but Kane County Undersheriff David Wagner said Chicago and the surrounding suburbs are tops in the nation in something not to be proud of -- the number of heroin-related trips to emergency rooms.

"Chicago is leading the nation in heroin use. Not New York City, not L.A., not Miami," he said.

In 2005, there were nine heroin overdose deaths in Kane County. That dropped to two in 2006; none in 2007 and one each year in 2008 and 2009. But there were five in 2010 and seven last year.

Authorities say the image of a junkie doing smack in an inner city alley is false; today's users are affluent suburban teens who often make one bad choice and are instantly hooked.

"It's real people, and it happens to really good kids," said Lea Minagla, who started Hearts of Hope after her son became addicted to heroin when he was 16.

Monday's forums focused on what parents can do to combat drug use, such as not consuming alcohol in front of their kids and emptying medicine cabinets of unused narcotic pain killers -- such as Oxycodone or hydrocodone -- that might be leftover from a knee surgery or root canal.

Officials urged the 45 parents in attendance at Christ Community Church to talk to their kids, monitor their kids' friends and their friends' older siblings, take advantage of "teachable moments" like Whitney Houston's death, and voice strong disapproval if their kids ever try drugs.

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez said some parents back off during their children's teen years because they think their kids are more independent and don't need them as much.

"That is absolutely false. Now is when they need you more than ever. The pitfalls are deeper," Perez said. "The end result could be hospitalization, addiction or death."

Jeannine Garriepy of Huntley lost her brother, John Yost, 30, to heroin in March 2009.

Monday was her first time speaking to a group about her loss and how her 8-year-old daughter will really never know her uncle.

"There's just something that heroin has over people, and it's this hold," she said. "It's just horrible. I don't have a brother."

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